Contributing through Challenge, Part Three

June 20, 2018


During the 2018 Commencement Dinner on May 24, SSM President, Nick Stoneman offered a reflection to the seniors, family members, trustees, and faculty. Here is the third and final installment of a three-part series that highlights three ways for us to contribute through challenge: challenging society’s norms, challenging injustices, and finally, challenging ourselves.

And finally, the third way I want you to think about how you can contribute, has to do with you personally. It has to do with keeping your mind alive and thinking with agility about who you are, what you could create, what you could imagine.

I want you to always be fostering the “inner-kindergartener” in you – having that commitment to imagination, to possibility, to inventiveness, to visioning that which others don’t yet see is paramount.

This third way of contributing is not societal, and is not about addressing injustice. It is about asking you to remain committed to challenging yourself – to discovering your essence, your imagination, your moral compass, your essential character.

Find, sustain, and further your core. It is both exciting and discomforting, and easy to overlook. It is oftentimes appealing to take the path of complacency, to defer self-discovery and realization.

But know this: not being willing to push yourself, living a life of complacency is like trying to drive your car while in neutral. The only way you can go forward is if you are going downhill – and I don’t think any of you want to head downhill.

Instead, I hope each of you will put that car into drive and head into your future with purpose and conviction, challenging yourself to bring all you have to offer to bear on your life’s journey.

I am not saying that uncovering your potential will be easy, but I am encouraging you to do the exploration and test what you think are your limits.

I have heard from dozens of long distance runners over the years who tell me that on a long trail race, they can get to a point where they think they are exhausted but their inner “competition”, and sometimes even their inner curiosity about self, keeps them going. Then, for whatever reason, another undiscovered gear kicks in, more resources and energy and ability are unleashed, and this discovery of their potential takes them to new places and further on down the trail.

Be like that runner. Push yourself to understand what lies within. Don’t be satisfied with who you think you are today. Get to know yourself more completely. Bring that awareness into play and, by so doing, be a difference maker.

Let me close by coming back to where I started. One word: CONTRIBUTE, brought to life by another word: CHALLENGE.

Fuse them together and make a difference by

  • questioning the status quo – not to be a contrarian, but to be an eye opener, a dot connector, a facilitator that helps elevate the conversations, one who sees possibilities where others may not.
  • by taking on injustices and showing how compassion, and civility, and equality need to pervade our lives; and finally,
  • by knowing yourself and all that you have within you that you can bring to bear.

Life beyond the Arch awaits you and, after tomorrow, you will be on your way. And I believe you are more than ready and I believe our world is going to be a better place because of the difference each of you will make in the years ahead.

And you know what is really great about all of that – all that will unfold before you and all that you will accomplish? You will each do so as an SSM alum, making all of us here immensely proud – of that you can be sure.

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