Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Running Towards Our Challenges

Yesterday, Drew Faust, President of Harvard spoke at theBacculaureate Service for the graduating class of 2013. Invoking images of the Boston Marathon bombings where both first responders and civilians ran towards the bombings rather than away, she urged the students to run towards the challenges that they would face after college and immunize themselves from the skepticism of “what can one person do?”,  an attitude which can so easily derail good intentions.

It was a powerful and moving speech, one that not only brought tears to my eyes, but also induced a little envy. Oh, to be that young again, with the future beckoning into the unknown, offering opportunities, many of which did not exist when I was that age. But it also was somewhat of a wake-up call. True, as we get older we have more responsibilities, most of which cannot be easily cast off, but does that mean we have to forgo optimism, excitement and opportunity? Settle for the easy, run away from the challenges and tell ourselves we are too old to dare?
I’ve always tried not to let age or gender interfere with my goals in life – I went into accountancy at a time when it was generally considered a male profession (how that has changed!), and since I was forty, have tried many more new activities than I did in my twenties and thirties. They say you never know what you can achieve unless you try and while it’s always nice to succeed at something, it is also worth trying just for the boost to confidence that comes from knowing you have tried. Try one and you may well be tempted to try another. Just as the opposite is true – decide you are too old, unfit, ignorant, etc. to do something and you will probably think that about most opportunities that come your way.

Society tends to anoint the young as the beacons of the future, an underlying theme in many graduation speeches, but that shouldn’t mean that we older generations can rest on the laurels of our past.

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