The Last Word
Education Key to Creating Change
Life is about the possibilities and obstacles. It’s what you do with the two that truly impacts your life journey. Will you seize upon the opportunities or get mired in the barriers?
I have learned the future is ours to shape, to mold and to create. An education is key to that future which we each strive to achieve for ourselves and others. And that’s all forms of education whether it is learned in the classroom or through the experiences to which we are exposed. A formal college education, like that offered here at Oswego, equips students with the tools to grow, learn and succeed in our evolving and ever-changing world.
It’s not just our studies in our majors, but also the other courses we may have taken, whether through general credit requirements or courses taken by chance. For example, a close friend of mine convinced me to take some courses in design with Professor John Belt. With all due respect to my Public Justice professors and my law school professors, I learned more from John Belt in the areas of critical thinking and problem-solving, and those lessons have served me the most in my personal and professional life. I am forever grateful!
Our formal education is very important, but the experiences students have at Oswego, some would say, are what truly prepare students for their life journey. These experiences can be structured through extracurricular activities or sometimes just through the diverse people you meet here. Oswego is part of my life story, which has shaped my journey to this point and will continue to impact me.
I was the 11th of 12 children born into a household that struggled financially. My mom and dad worked full-time jobs and ran the family farm to provide for us. They never had two nickels to rub together, as they say. We did not have indoor plumbing in our home when I was young. We used an outhouse and carried water into the house, and we heated the two-story house with a wood burning stove; but it was also a home in which my parents taught that integrity, hard work, tenacity and education would lead to a better life.
As a young person, I saw economic injustice and unfairness; I saw those who have and those who have not. I saw what I perceived as a criminal justice system that treated my family differently. This led me to tell my mother that I would grow up one day to be a lawyer. I wanted to change the world.
Like many Lakers, I was the first generation in my family to attend college. I came to Oswego to study public justice and intentionally used it as a pre-law program. With intention I took courses in history, philosophy, economics, social science and political science to probe and analyze these two questions: “What makes society just; and why is it important for society to be just?”
This exploration and my overall Oswego experience were the beginnings of a principle that guides my every decision: “No matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your abilities, who you love or how you identify, we all have dignity and with that dignity, we deserve full equality, justice and the opportunity to succeed.” A simple proposition perhaps, yet one that is consistent with the greatest movements in our country’s history; from Abolition to Civil Rights, from Seneca Falls to Stonewall.
This principle has positively permeated my life—whether in my work as an anti-discrimination lawyer, in my business life, or in my LGBTQ+ activism, or now as an elected official in the NYS Assembly. I own a business with my husband, John White ’90—a coffee house named Equal=Grounds; we just celebrated our 16th year anniversary in May. The name itself, Equal=Grounds, says it all.
Seeing the dignity and humanity of every person will help us to overcome the greatest obstacles and differences, which might otherwise divide us. We need more than ever before people who are willing to fight for social, racial, and economic justice and equality for all. For you see our diversity is our strength, but our unity is our power. Young and old; gay and straight; black and white; male and female; rich and poor; broken and whole; Republican and Democrat; trans and cis and everyone beyond and in between. We are stronger together.
This is why I established my scholarship–to give to the next generation an opportunity to shape their future for the better—to make a difference. I established the “Harry B. Bronson ’82 Endowed Social Justice Scholarship” to help students seize upon the opportunity to obtain a quality higher education from SUNY Oswego, but also so they might take on this fight for equality and justice.
Let’s all go out to make the world a little better, a little more just and more fair.
— Harry B. Bronson ’82
Harry B. Bronson ’82 is an attorney and politician from Rochester, N.Y. The only openly gay state elected official outside of New York City, he was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2010.