Othello Herbert Speaks at buildOn's 2023 Gala

Gala 2023: Remarks from buildOn Alumnus Othello Herbert

Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for having me here tonight to share my story.

My odyssey with buildOn began in the heart of Chicago, where I, like many of you, was a student searching for purpose in a world brimming with possibilities. I vividly recall the first time I stepped into the realm of service with buildOn. 

In the heart of a modest Latin American community, Pilsen, I found myself immersed in a task that belied its simplicity–crafting sandwiches for those hungering for more than sustenance. Amidst the rhythmic assembly of bread and filling, I unearthed the extraordinary. Faces weathered by life’s storms crossed my path, each a testament to resilience etched in the lines of their expressions. As I handed over those humble sandwiches, the exchange transcended mere food; it became a cinematic moment of shared humanity that left an indelible imprint on both the giver and the receiver.

From the humble act of sandwich-making, fast forward to constructing three schools in economically developing countries. Imagine a bustling marketplace in a remote village, the scent of spices lingering in the air as laughter and chatter form a lively backdrop. I stand alongside locals, our hands united in building not just structures of bricks and mortar but bridges of shared dreams and aspirations. In the dance of hammer and nail, the school rises as a beacon of hope, echoing with the laughter of children eager for the promise of education. 

But why does service matter? 

It matters because in those moments of connection, whether making sandwiches in the U.S. or building schools abroad, we discover the essence of our shared humanity. It is about recognizing that the person receiving the help is also offering something invaluable—a glimpse into a different reality and a reminder of our interconnectedness.

So, how has buildOn impacted my life? The journey has brought me to this point. I’m now a Diplomatic Technology Officer in the Foreign Service, a trajectory that was intricately woven by buildOn’s transformative impact.

It is simple–public service showed me the power of diplomacy not just between nations but between individuals. It taught me that understanding and empathy are the cornerstones of building bridges, whether constructing a school in a remote village or navigating the complexities of international relations.

Now, I invite you to envision the transformative power of service and urge you to consider your role. How can you contribute to the symphony of human endeavor, making each note resonate with selflessness, compassion, and progress?

Join hands with organizations like buildOn or create your own path to make a difference. Volunteer, connect, and weave your own story of unity and transformation. In doing so, you not only impact the lives of others but become part of a narrative that echoes through the hearts of those whose lives are touched by our collective effort.

Together, let us be the authors of change, penning chapters of empathy, compassion, and progress. The power to make a difference lies within each of us. The question is, how will you wield that power?