It’s April, in Universities that means it’s ‘banquet season’, the time of the year-end events to celebrate the many achievements of our students. It is a busy time of year, but also a time of great joy and pride. This year I spoke at the Who’s Who banquet and I thought I’d share some of my remarks with you this week because they apply to you, too.
I took a couple of detours on the way there, but the point of my speech was the following quote:
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
For those of you who don’t recognize it, the author of that quote is Stan Lee, writer of Spider-Man.
According to Wikipedia, Spider-Man is one of the most recognized fictional characters in the world. I don’t really understand why he’s so cool, but I do know he was cool long before the Spider-Man movies came out.
Over time, I have come to believe that one of the most important traits of true leaders is a sense of responsibility. It is a willingness to acknowledge what Max DePree says – “that leadership is a serious meddling in others’ lives”. Therefore, we have an obligation to act with care as we go about the business of our days.
As I told the attendees that night, I realized that there was something in this idea that I challenge you to think about. I like Stephen Covey’s idea that responsibility is respond-ability. And I know that the staff, students and faculty of this university are talented, caring, amazing people. I know each one of us has the ability to respond.
Now, what about the power side of the equation? Most of us who aren’t Spider-Man or Wonder Woman or any other superhero try to get out of this part by saying we don’t have any power, we’re just college students, ordinary citizens, too young, too old… you fill in the excuse, um fill in the blank.
Author and teacher Marianne Williamson has an answer for us if we believe we have no power.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
… Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
… As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
I know you each have the ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities before you, and even more to the challenges and opportunities that our world faces.
I have no doubt that you each have a light to shine and you can choose to exercise leadership of the highest caliber. I hope that each of you choose a leadership of care for those around you.
So whether or not you can spin a web, leap tall buildings in a single bound, or have any super-power at all, I know that you each have great talent, super-energy and caring hearts. In other words you have great power and great respond-ability and I look forward to seeing how each of you make UTSA and the rest of the world better places for us all.