I’m an eternal optimist. I believe that the world will be a better place tomorrow than it was today. I believe this because of the unrelenting passion in true leaders to encourage themselves and others that “we can do better.”
I recently graduated from the University of Michigan. Sitting on the ceremony floor, I looked around at my peers. I thought about all of the great achievements that my fellow students and I had accomplished over the past four and a half years, and it gave me hope. It gave me hope in a world where all we see on the media is crime, poverty, war and sickness. I tried to decide where that hope was coming from; what in particular did I see in that gymnasium that is absent from the bulk of society?
I thought back over my four and a half years at the University. What had I seen in people that gave me hope? For three of those years, I was in charge of the Michigan Solar Car Team. It’s the largest, entirely student run organization on campus, whose purpose is to design, build, finance and race a solar powered car in competitions around the world. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to simply produce and race a car, much less to win. In the previous round of competitions, Michigan had failed to even qualify. As a returning group, we decided that we could do better. Through the two years of design and production of the car and team, I witnessed some of the most amazing acts dedication. Team members would work over one hundred hours a week to give the team just the slightest competitive edge. Team members were not satisfied with saying things were just ‘good enough’ but drove themselves to constantly improve. After two years of work, Michigan won its fourth National Championship. It is the kind of leadership passion that I witnessed there that gives me hope for tomorrow.
I believe the real challenge we face as a society is the mass’ acceptance of the notion of ‘good enough.’ With hunger, poverty, disease and war still as large a problems as they were one hundred years ago, and only growing in urgency as our population explodes, society cannot afford to hesitate in the arena of progress. Society must stand up and say, “we can do better.”
I also believe that significant change in this world cannot come solely from the work of one person. Multiple minds working together can accomplish far more than multiple minds working separately. It is this knitting of the best wisdom that will push society in the right direction.
I believe the educated and privileged have a responsibility to society to attempt to solve the world’s problems. While potentially profitable to the individual, true leadership is looking beyond one’s own needs, placing themselves on the altar of progress and finding a way to move society forward. This I believe.
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