Dr. Marc Lindner is the High School Principal and Associate Head of School at CESJDS.
It’s an honor for me to be here with all of you, and to share some thoughts with the Class of 2019.
In Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, it’s said that we have three names in our lives:
- The name we are given by our parents.
- The name we come to be known by. For you, Class of 2019, maybe this is what’s on the back of your senior jersey.
- The third name is much more than a name. It’s the essence of who we are, what emanates from us out into the world. It really can’t be encapsulated with just one name or one word. I have some thoughts about how to develop this third name that I’ll share with you now.
The first three are ways of being that I shared at our opening assembly this year and then also at BTSN with parents.
Be Empathic. Doing everything in your power to put yourself in another person’s shoes. To adopt her or his perspective. That’s empathy. We all work to strike a balance between operating in our own self interests and doing for others. I’m suggesting that you tip the scale a little bit more than is comfortable toward doing for others, and empathy can be a key ingredient in doing this. Empathy increases the chances of you being helpful, being supportive and lifting someone else up, rather than knocking them down. It’s also an excellent way to differentiate yourself and I think it can bring a great deal of fulfillment and satisfaction to our lives.
Be Courageous. When I spoke about courage in the beginning of the year I talked about the courage to withstand peer pressure to say or do something that’s inconsistent with who you are or what you believe. Following what you believe and what you value, when it puts you in the minority or even when you need to stand alone, it’s difficult, it’s noble and a real indication of leadership. This won’t change now that you’re moving on from JDS. Maybe it becomes even more important now. Live according to your values.
Be Humble. Admit when you’re wrong and take responsibility for your mistakes. Boasting and being full of yourself may feel empowering in the short term, but in the long term, it won’t fill you. Genuine acts of graciousness, and kindness and humanity are what will bring you long term satisfaction that you’ll be able to look back on and feel proud of. When you are successful, and I know you will be, of course be proud, and also express gratitude to anyone and everyone who helped you along the way. Like empathy, being humble when you succeed can be a means of inspiring others, rather than driving a wedge between you and them.
Be Patient. With the nearly instant accessibility of information we have at our fingertips today, it’s not easy to be patient. But sometimes we can’t decide on the best answer right away. Or what’s valid or useful information. Or how to respond to another person’s question or demand. My advice here isn’t new. I’m not the first to say it. But it’s something I believe very deeply. Take your time to answer or decide. It can be hours, days, weeks or longer. You’ve got time. Communicate about what you’re doing if someone’s waiting. With time, a path that you would never have seen initially may become crystal clear.
Be Engaged. Take action. No one can do everything, of course, but when you suspect that something may be of interest today or you believe it may lead to a meaningful step for your future, do it. Don’t let the possibility of it not working out stop you. Don’t shy away from something because it seems too big. I’m not sure anyone has ever made this point more effectively than Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. After completing his second term as US president, he traveled and spoke to audiences around the world. In April of 1910, in Paris, France, he gave a lengthy speech, a segment of which has come to be referred to as The Man in the Arena. While he used the pronoun man, we can use she, they, or whatever we wish. He said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Class of 2019, keep working on that third name. Mazal tov on your upcoming graduation. Thank you.