On a certain plane ride to the southern deserts of Utah, I sat down next to an elderly woman with a cute, floppy hat. I commented on it, which sparked a conversation that lasted the entire plane ride—a full five and half hours. We swapped our entire life stories, cried a lot, did some Sudoku, and looked through her entire camera roll…and while I remember all of these gestures in great detail, one particular statement she made stuck out more than the rest.
“You know, Abigail, we grow up being conditioned to believe that we all have to be leaders, and not followers. But I’ve discovered that you should be neither a leader nor a follower; just be yourself.”
The conversation progressed, but yet words still perplexed me. After all, why on earth would anyone not attempt to be a leader? When given the opportunity, why should someone stay seated when they could stand up and take a challenge?
Yet over time, I began to see what she meant.
Editor’s Note: Senior Maddy Stern presented the following speech to her class on Sept. 8, 2013 during orientation.
First off, congrats. We finally made it—senior year. Every other grade on campus basically wants to be us right now. Simply by virtue of being seniors we are in a position to make a large impact on the school; people look up to us (physically and metaphorically). Some days it may not feel like what you do is important, but it is essential to remember that even if you only impact one person, you’ve made a difference.
Everything we’ve come to love and will continue to love about Williston doesn’t just happen, we make it happen. We paint the lion; we put embarrassing posters all over the school for people’s birthdays; we throw the best dances; we are proctors, captains, tutors, artists, leaders—but these are all just parts of a much larger whole. Just as you shouldn’t make the mistake to categorize the people you will interact with, Williston isn’t simply a label, or a shield. It is the sum of all our individual parts.