When all seems lost, the North Star that is Leadership shows the way. But where have you been? Graffiti turns our fountains red. Grievances and feuds mire our institutions, rendering them void and useless. Our campus elections are held over and over; by the end, they only serve to pit us against each other. What does this campus stand for? Who stands out above the rest to protect and to serve?
Truth be told, no one who is rational wants you. You invite the vitriol, the scrutiny, the burdens of all. Those who know not the sacrifice nor the diligence you require are the only ones to be found. You have long been used for spoils for a few instead of the progress for all. You demand such a high price that no one is willing to pay, so you are undersold and abused.
Still, that high price must be paid. What we hold dear today is not a given for tomorrow. Moreover, a tomorrow that is brighter than today cannot come without you. You, Leadership, are not a given. Our institutions, our values, and our dreams hinge on you. The flawed and the self-interested have injected such failings into the systems we cherish. We bicker, we trivialize, we harass, we prejudice. Where are you, Leadership?
Some may say you never left, but what we’re left with now is not true nor just. We are let down at every turn. Every glimmer of hope leaves us hopeless at second glance. Those who claim to be you might look like you, sound like you, and act like you. But the grandeur of their words only pits brother against brother, sister against sister. Their supposedly-caring hands are quick to cast stones with sin. No, they are not you. They speak, but they do not Lead.
Where are you, Leadership? If you’re here, step forward. Dare to Lead. For it was once said, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Didn’t you once dream that one day “sons of slaves and sons of slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood”? Who sits at that table now? Let us not throw some from the table to make room for others. Let us build a longer table. If we exclude those who once barred others, we do not move forward. When we seek vengeance and refuse to listen, we move backward to an era where we knew not the content of our characters but only the color of our skin.
Listen, don’t tell. You do not stand for people, you stand for Values. Our voices together are more than the sum of the noise. But in order for our voices to be more than noise, you must listen. Our hopes and dreams may rest on you, but they do not come from you. You must come to us — to Lead and to show us the way.
Most of all, build, but do not destroy. Sad are the days when Leadership champions bringing about ends and not beginnings. An “achievement” that desecrates the milestones of others is not so. Do not seek to block, but guide. If we are wrong, speak up but do not chastise. Reaching for common ground should always come before outright desertion.
May we once again find a Leadership to cherish and behold. May we join to help each other. May we escape this zero-sum world of yesterday to a tomorrow where we can revel in the stewardship of our institutions and not their destruction.
May this be more than another empty moment and instead mark a pivot to meaning.
May we dare to build, dare to listen, and dare to Lead.