A choice for the future

Elliot Spillers

I’d be lying if I said finding the words for this column was easy. Truly, who at the end of their journey can eloquently summarize multiple moments of pleasure, discomfort, achievement and disappointment into five hundred words or less? Thankfully, nine of the five hundred words presented themselves. Call it fate, good fortune or even karma: it was definitely a sign. And not in the metaphorical sense, it was quite literally a sign. Displayed on my bedroom wall were nine words that symbolized the culmination of my journey at The University of Alabama:

“The future belongs to those who challenge the present.”

Oftentimes we find ourselves lost in a perpetual state of uniformity, immobilized by the burden of time and unwilling to relinquish complacency for self-actualization. For some, the decision to remove the veil of complacency and challenge the notion of monotony is easy. It’s a deliberate opportunity to become introspective and embark on a journey of truth; it’s a chance to be able to reconcile the past for moral certainty of the future. For others, the ability to be self-critical is difficult. Fear—as I perceive it—becomes their barrier. They’re neither the navigator, nor author of their story. Blinded by uncertainty, their destiny is governed by the clock. Thus a crossroads: two roads diverged in a wood; ultimately, a decision must be made.

This is the present state I find my University to be in–uniformity masked as tradition and change coming from the bottom, not the top. Repeated periods of change are sadly the result of forces working against progress.

As a senior it’s hard to fathom that our era of change is not uncommon from those efforts of the past. It easily parallels student efforts dating back to 1976. Forty years later, and we are but a tick mark on the history chart of The University of Alabama. Like those brave students before us—and those who will surely come after—we have decided to become the masters of our time: free to challenge the present and turn the tides of change.

In 2013, I took the stand alongside student leaders—Greek and independent alike—to petition that the door of opportunity again be opened for all. In 2014, we— the often-disregarded 12% —demonstrated in the Ferguson Center that indeed Black Lives Mattered beyond athletics.ua.edu. We strove to prove our families wrong: there is in fact acceptance for “the others” in the Alabama community. And on the night of March 10th 2015, we celebrated the collective decision of 8,602 students: the demand for change and restoration of hope.

For too long students have carried alone the burden of challenging the present. The same courage demanded of us should be demanded of our administrators and those in the Board of Trustees. Will another forty years of uniformity, indifference and silence from these members go by until we encounter another student-led wave of change? Or will this be the era that sticks? One where the entire Alabama community carried the torch of change: rather than the courageous few.

Those of us who envision opportunity for all understand that fear and indifference are at the core of our campus divide, and people often lack the energy and passion to try for change. We do not conform to the ideologies of the past, but rather make change work for us, further extending Alabama’s potential to encompass the groups that “tradition” would exclude. Whether we fail or succeed, our hope resides in the promise of a moral cause.

Understanding has motivated me to act during my time at Alabama: to challenge the present, and write a future I can be proud of. Many times I have failed along this journey, but like others in the Alabama community, I have stared injustice, complacency and apathy in the face, only to realize—as President Obama would put it—“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

As students, we must continue to challenge the status quo and never shy from the opportunity to raise our voice. I have learned that to fully appreciate the college experience you must step out of your comfort zone and harness a healthy disregard for the impossible. Rather than limit myself to the expectations of others, I chose to instead raise the boundaries of my own.

At the end of my road, I leave this University with hope. Truly, the future belongs to those who challenge the present. What future will you choose?

Elliot Spillers is a senior majoring in management. He has served as President of the Student Government Association. After graduation, he will be pursuing his career in Washington D.C.