Back from D.C.
Four years ago, Knox Robinson was on a family vacation to Washington, D.C. On the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, he told his dad he had a strong urge to study or work in the nation’s capital one day.
But first, he wanted to go to college and play football.
He visited several campuses, but when he visited LaGrange College, a student told him about what sounded to be an almost-too-good-to-be-true coincidence: LaGrange College is among a group of Methodist colleges that are part of the Capitol Hill Internship Program sponsored by the United Methodist College Washington Consortium. That meant for the same tuition and expenses necessary to live and study at LaGrange College, he could intern for a full semester in Washington, D.C., his junior or senior year.
“He told me about the CHIP program, how you can go to Washington, D.C., pay the tuition you’d pay here, and live in a house in a historic area just three or four blocks from the Capitol building,” says Knox, now a senior political science and sociology major. “It sounded almost too good to be true. It turned out to be such a blessing for me because it’s really expensive to live there and the CHIP program puts you right in the middle of everything.”
Knox applied in the middle of his junior year and began looking for an internship there. While members of the CHIP program live and study together, they each have an internship placement with varied agencies in the area.
“I had found something at the Smithsonian, but I just didn’t feel like that was really my calling,” he says. “I happened to be at a football game in the spring and struck up a conversation with Will Jones (the college’s Vice President for External Relations). He told me about a program where he had worked for several years called Sojourners, and it sounded like just the place for me.”
Sojourners is a non-profit political advocacy organization that takes a spiritual, theological and action-oriented approach to solving society’s problems, Knox says.
The Rev. Jim Wallis founded the organization in the 1960s as “kind of a spillover from the Human Rights Movement,” Knox says.
“One of the slogans we had there was something to the effect that God is not a Republican or a Democrat,” he says. “In Sojourners, we tried to rise above a lot of the partisan gridlock that really is at play in Washington, D.C. It’s really more of a ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ approach to political action.”
Knox says he was raised as a Southern Baptist and that coming to LaGrange College awakened his faith.
“I would have to describe my faith as being very sleepy before I came here,” he says. “Coming to LaGrange and getting plugged into community service opportunities right at the very beginning really wakened me to the more marginalized in society.
“I just feel like that, as Christians, we have a service-learning responsibility to look out for the ‘least of these’ like Jesus talks about in Matthew 25. That has always been the passage in the Bible that brought me into Christianity full force and passionately. The first week at Sojourners we had a service where the Rev. Wallis brought up Matthew 25. That really confirmed that I needed to be there.”
At Sojourners, Knox found himself immersed in being active with immigration, climate care and poverty. Through a group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, he traveled to New York for the second presidential debate to try to discuss the issue of climate care with those protesting outside the debate.
“It was kind of a sweet moment later on when Barack Obama talked about climate change in his inaugural address,” he says. “It really does seem like progress is being made on that front.”
Knox also helped produce a DVD called “The Line,” about poverty in America.
“It was an amazing DVD,” he says. “People may not realize that the poverty line has gotten to its worst point since the 1960s. One of the coolest experiences I had was to go to the Capitol to deliver a copy of the DVD to every member of the Senate and House. It really felt like our work was making a difference.”
Knox says he may go to graduate school or law school someday, but after he receives his bachelor’s degree in May, he wants to focus on helping people in some way, possibly through teaching or community organizing.
“I’ve been very blessed to enjoy the privileges of education, of going to LaGrange College and meeting a lot of people,” he says. “I’ve met a lot of people who are successful, but I’ve been blessed to meet people who are successful with a strong moral compass. It may have been professors who bent over backward to help me, or professors who are passionate about helping their communities.
“And it’s also the people I met in D.C. It’s a very egotistical city, and you can meet a lot of people there with selfish ambitions. But to meet people in D.C. who are passionate about others is very inspiring.”