To the Class of 2023, and to each new student — once more, welcome. By now, you’ve likely eaten in the Café and studied in the Cap Bar or Cowan-Blakely Memorial Library. Perhaps you’ve even embarked upon your first Lit Trad essay.
As our year kicks into academic gear, we turn from summer, perhaps spent working, having fun or relaxing with family, toward embracing the daily rigors and rewards of academic life shared in community.
Amid our busyness, we must remind ourselves of the need to continually strive towards balancing our academic, personal and, possibly, professional responsibilities.
It can be difficult to strike this balance, but it’s worth it. Through serving as a Madonna Hall RA and now on Executive Council, as our Student Body President, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for our need to rest, worship and spend unstructured time in our community.
In these times of peace, prayer, and fellowship, one can focus on God and self, temporarily disengaging from daily tasks, duties and opportunities to rediscover a sense of perspective necessary to lead and to thrive.
Here at the University of Dallas, we understand that our worth does not derive from our work, the grade we get on our Phil and Eth midterm, or the number of hours we spend in study. We are holistic people within an authentically integrated community that reaches far beyond the classroom.
Yet, the classroom at UD vitally forms each of us, and our first and foremost vocation is to the vocation of study. As we continue our academic work this semester, I wish to leave you with a thought on leadership, and what it means to us.
As Crusaders, we each have a duty to lead through service and example.
Our obligation to lead derives from our Catholic values, patriotic heritage and collective privilege as young men and women who share the incredible opportunity of growing and studying in safety and security.
Our individual uniqueness enriches this shared mandate and deepens the charism of our community. Our community’s diversity in every form constitutes a vital part of our identity and reminds us to serve, not only as leaders, but as inclusive leaders. With an ever-present awareness of our call and of our values, it’s our job to shape the world for good in all that we do.
The year ahead is full of opportunities to act for good, and voting is one of them. As we approach the 2020 presidential election, we must remember the necessity of civic engagement and the good that can be done through it.
Our nation’s heart beats at the ballot box, where many of us will cast our ballot in early November 2020. My fellow students, I leave you with this thought: as we examine those who seek to serve us, we should be able to take some things for granted.
When the bar of leaderly expectation is set low, those who crouch under it by, “checking the right boxes,” are praised as the best among us.
Yet, authentic tolerance, self-restraint and sincere respect for our nation’s democratic and constitutional norms are not of themselves distinctively praiseworthy. Rather, they are the price of entry into the arena — required without exception of all those who seek to serve and represent “We, the People.”
I challenge each new student to be unafraid of demanding greatness and unafraid of recognizing greatness as founded in growth.
Set the fulfillment of essential obligations, not as your comprehensive standard of leaderly excellence, but rather as your starting point for service. This service must come from the heart, and do good for the community. Remember: it’s our humility, constancy, and vision that distinctively marks us as leaders — not the badge we wear.
As Christ tells his apostles, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
These are truly words to live by, and especially so for us, the Crusaders.