The opportunity to lead is single-handedly one of the most profound privileges a person can have. Currently, on a national level, we witness leadership being used as a vehicle for division. We see rhetoric quickly turn 280 characters into weapons of mass distraction, hysteria and intolerance.
In this political climate and at this crucial moment in history, it is our job to not only denounce examples that amplify hate, but also to create a better example of our own. One that builds the foundations for bridges that can withstand any storm; one that stretches a hand to individuals living on the margins of society and pulls them into a place of empowerment; one that rises above expectation every day, regardless of extenuating circumstances. To lead anywhere is to make a commitment to service while also seeking progression in the process.
Our founder, Russell Conwell, once equated our campus to an acre of diamonds. These invaluable objects are forged by years of unimaginable pressure. Today, Temple University is one of the most phenomenal, groundbreaking and dynamic institutions in the nation. Notably, our students, faculty, staff and neighboring community have been forged by individual and societal pressures that metaphorically contribute to our collective development. Despite where any of us come from, what we look like or the school or college we belong to, each of us possesses a breadth of experience and knowledge that is priceless.
As a student body, we have to be hell-bent on diving into the deeper stories of each other, North Philadelphia and the world that exists beyond our purview, rather than solely understanding issues on the surface. The road to a future that is both challenging and inclusive is one that is traveled by individuals steadfast on discovery; a discovery forged by the pressures of understanding a person’s intersectional identity in relation to their experiences, culture and society, while simultaneously being driven to understand a world that exists beyond absolutes and dichotomies.
As the former president of Temple Student Government, I write this letter to the current administration and to every leader on this campus as a reminder of our strength as a student body. We are stronger when unified. Forty-thousand students standing together for any initiative will undoubtedly be a catalyst for change. There are a plethora of issues that students face on this campus ranging from access and affordability, to racism and sexism; combatting the proposed stadium, to advocating for improved sexual assault resources; and creating inclusive environments on campus, to expanding mental health resources, just to name a few.
There will be countless issues that are important to various groups of students. It is imperative that we create more spaces for collaboration between different student organizations and that we challenge ourselves to show up in conversations that are not always comfortable. In small doses over time, this discomfort and pressure will transform us into a stronger and more powerful version of ourselves.
Conclusively, I will end this letter with a quote from Acres of Diamonds: “He who can give to this people better streets, better homes, better schools, better churches, more religion, more of happiness, more of God, he that can be a blessing to the community in which he lives tonight will be great anywhere…’ We live in deeds, not years, in feeling, not in figures on a dial; in thoughts, not breaths; we should count time by heart throbs, in the cause of right.’ Bailey says: ‘He most lives who thinks most.’”
Think deeper, lean into discomfort and lead with purpose. Ultimately, “these values will define our path” toward a stronger, more unified and inclusive campus community.
Tyrell Mann-Barnes is a senior biology and English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @mannbarnes.