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      The Power of a Hug

      Peace Activist Ken Nwadike Jr. Encourages Unity...and More Hugging

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      Lessons In Peaceful Activism

      Senior Nicolette Epifani, center, and members of Widener’s Student Government Association talk with Ken Nwadike Jr. of the Free Hugs Project about ways to promote peace and unity.

      Ken Nwadike Jr.'s call for unity clearly resonated with the Widener community. More than 400 students and a small group of faculty and administrators packed Alumni Auditorium on Dec. 5 to witness Nwadike, also known as the "Free Hugs Guy," deliver an interactive program that encouraged attendees to create positive change by engaging in conversations that promote understanding and compassion. He, of course, also touted the power of a hug.

      "I think a hug is a silent way of telling someone that they matter. It's saying 'I see you. I recognize you,'" Nwadike said. He stressed that this simple gesture reminds us of the humanity in one another.

      Senior Nicolette Epifani first reached out to Nwadike in August to invite him to speak at Widener. She said that it was in the thick of the presidential election, and so she saw value in bringing someone to campus who could help promote unity over divisiveness. Epifani said that the timing of Nwadike's visit on Dec. 5, after the election concluded, could not have worked out better.

      ken and schwartz hug

      Free Hugs

      Activist Ken Nwadike Jr. gives out free hugs as a way to connect with people and share his message that we all share in common our humanity and the need for love. He hugs Dr. Arthur Schwartz, director of the Oskin Leadership Institute, after the two meet in the Pride Cafe.

      "At the end of the day, we're all Widener, and beyond that, we are all people," Epifani said, noting that the reinforcement of this message from Nwadike can help people feel more united and work toward solving their differences in a peaceful manner.

      Nwadike said that hearing young people such as Epifani reiterate his message keeps him going. He met with groups of Widener student leaders leading up to his nighttime talk.

      "When you can actually see the fruits of your labor...that I'm actually inspiring people and motivating others to really say, 'I'm going to step out and try to spread love and be more open and accepting of the people around me as well,' there is a lot of power in that, and not just for me, but for other people who are watching that happen," he said. "And that is how we will change the world – to get people to care more about one another."

      This visit from Nwadike was the final event in the university series "We're All Widener: Now What?" which was launched after the presidential election to promote reciprocal support, value for the thoughts and experiences of others, and mutual respect. The series reinforced the values of the "We're All Widener" pluralism campaign launched in 2012. Many students wore "We're All Widener" tees during Nwadike's visit.

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