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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Discovering the Real Meaning of Leadership

    I spent this past weekend inWashington,D.C.at a forum for leaders. What makes me a leader? Apparently, someone mentioned that I am the publisher of the Statesman. Does that necessarily mean anything? Does that make me a leader, or am I just someone who happens to hold a position of authority?

    I learned the difference this weekend: that a leader isn’t someone who guides and directs, gives orders and criticizes. A leader is someone who cares enough to make a difference in the world and in the people around them. Real leaders aren’t just figures of authority. They are the ones that stand by when nothing goes right. They are the ones who will put themselves on the line before anyone else, the individuals that come up with new ideas and move things forward, instead of just doing what others have done before them.

    The university sent Sandy Curtis, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, and me to the National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values. While there, we learned not only what a leader is, but what a leader does. We met people that exemplify compassion and graciousness, qualities that are important in real leaders.

    The emphasis was on service in leadership, and we practiced just that. On Saturday, a group of about one hundred college students from around the nation went to one of D.C.’s poorest sections and completely revamped a recreation center for inner city youths. We painted bright shades of yellow, purple and blue over rusted white paint that was chipping away on metal doors. None of us thought that we were too important for this. None of us felt that we shouldn’t have had to do this, because we went to Ivy League schools or had a 4.0 GPA. It wasn’t about that. It was about making a difference in the community by giving back a part of yourself. We, student leaders around the nation, were able put a put smiles on faces that we would probably never see, but it was still absolutely amazing and worth every bead of sweat.

    Leaders from around the nation came to speak to us, telling stories of how faith and values have factored into their roles throughout life. Attorney General John Ashcroft put it best. He presented us with three questions that explore the meaning of life, and who we are: Am I a product of intelligent design, or just an accident? Am I free, or am I a slave? When all is done, can I say that my life has been meaningful? Real leaders, he said, will answer these questions with flying colors.

    In the nation’s capitol, where some of the greatest men in history have walked, I learned what it is to be a real leader. I met some amazing people with whom I had some of the most insightful conversations I have had in a long time, and, best of all, I learned that compassion and service are two of the most important qualities that anyone can possess, leader or not. It just makes such a difference.

    Now that I am back at Stony Brook, I hope to bring what I learned with me. I’d like to formally thank the Dean of Students Office and Catholic Campus Ministries for giving me the wonderful opportunity to explore the nation’s capitol and learn from the nation’s leaders.

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