Introspection key to big changes

Ian Sams

Over the past 10 years, memoir has emerged as one of the top-selling literary genres in America. Americans are an open people—descendant of the emotional revolutionaries of centuries past. From every corner of the globe, our forebears fled oppression and tyranny, with their hearts and minds on their sleeves, to the outstretched arms of the United States.

Today, those essential characteristics can be found in our social media, where we take to our keyboards to share our innermost thoughts and feelings. They’re in our conversations, where we talk more and more openly about family, life and love. And, yes, they’re present in the memoir.

In the genre, leaders—from American presidents to chief executives of our largest corporations—reflect on their lives and their decisions, often sharing personal moments and deeply examining their own characters and behaviors.

In the process, readers gain an unparalleled glimpse into the mentality of leadership—the ways in which people who have gained influence and who serve the public act, think and make choices.

Introspection is a unique experience that far too many of us spend too little time doing.

As we’re an emotional, open people, so too are we an impulsive, ambitious one. We make decisions quickly, often without the full breadth of true deliberation. We claw our way to the top, and when we get there we focus more on maintaining power than wielding it in meaningful ways. It’s transparent, and on this campus our leaders often exhibit these dangerous flaws.

Many of us—including, dare I say, most of the students who are reading this column right now—feel like we rule the roost. We’re officers in organizations, editors for publications, members of honor societies and greek organizations, and elite scholars. As such, we make decisions. After all, that’s what we’ve been chosen to do, right? We feel a mandate behind us in everything we do, and we act on it.

We scratch and claw to gain political capital and power, then we cash it in for little more than new projects or events that cater to a small number of students. We don’t muster the courage to propose real, viable solutions to problems like parking, dining, disunity and overcrowding to the University administration.

We don’t look at our organizations and decide what should stay and what should go. (I say that because it’s the norm; however, I do commend new SGA President Grant Cochran for already cutting waste and streamlining roles in the SGA to increase efficiency.) In too many cases, we do what we’ve always done.

We also fail to wholly examine how our organizations should play into a broader team effort of making campus more unified and cohesive. Rather—and often egotistically—we try for each of our specific organizations to provide the answer to our broadest problems.

These sorts of actions happen in almost every organization on this campus. Maybe it’s natural.

But I wrote last week that I believe our campus is in the midst of progress; and if leaders take time to reflect on the status of this campus and their individual roles in its progress, I wholeheartedly believe the broader student body will respond. Like readers seeking answers in a memoir, students want to see their leaders acting with poise, common sense, and pragmatism.

It’s time to pause and inspect ourselves and our own organizations for how to best tackle our University’s widening issues. After that, maybe we will all emerge with a renewed sense of purpose for where we can go as a unified community. And through it all, our leaders may learn the importance of sacrificing self and power for the greater and more looming cause of building oneness on this campus.

 

Ian Sams is a senior majoring in political science. His column runs on Mondays.