When you see talent, education and compassion come together in young people, the world seems like it has a chance. That was the feeling that several hundred students, faculty and friends at the Loyola University, Chicago School of Communications shared last night, when I had the honor of presenting the Ebeling PR-ize for excellence in cause-related communications to several outstanding student teams, for the 7th year.

The winning team, of the 11 groups competing for the 2013 PR-ize, created the campaign, “Make the Connection. Paint a Brighter Future” innovating social media and creative collateral materials and expanded outreach through art stores in support of an art therapy program that benefits inner city at-risk students.

Honorable mentions went to teams that developed communications campaigns to benefit Chicago Canine Rescue and a program to aid teachers and community organizations to integrate music into the curriculum.

Here are opening thoughts I shared with the students last night:

There are never enough opportunities to celebrate successes in life, and for all of us here tonight, this is one such opportunity. Mahatma Gandhi, if I may be so bold to invoke his name, said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

This is an occasion when we celebrate what has been done for the community by several student groups, and what they have communicated to others to assist these not-for-profit organizations.  Thanks to their individual skills, their professional teamwork, and bolstered by the communications strategies and technologies they have studied here at Loyola, they have made a positive difference.

Today we also celebrate Earth Day, when we take notice of an environment that still sustains our lives, despite many challenges. It’s an environment that sustains our health and physical freedoms as human beings. Whether we are running in the race of our lives, or just cheering on others from the sidelines, we are one people on one earth, and to some extent, what affects each of us affects us all. The events of the past week certainly underline that.

So let me tie this together by observing that there are people watching and learning from what you think, what you say and what you do. The efforts of all the student teams here tonight point toward the reasons that we can remain hopeful.

And what do we think about their efforts? We think they and their results are terrific. So, to paraphrase Gandhi, what they have done and said, and what we all think about them, are in harmony, and we are happy about that. Very happy, indeed.

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