I am humbled and honored to be with you today to congratulate the award recipients of the Sigma Phi Epsilon's Balanced Man Scholarship. I greet all of you warmly - - friends, family, students, and colleagues -- on behalf of the President, Provost, and the Academic Deans of the University of Northern Iowa. When I think about this program, it is in honor of those who provided evidence in their applications and interviews that they possess civic, academic, and athletic characteristics that make them balanced men. These characteristics are represented in all who submitted applications as well as the values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love which are the signature traits of the men who join Sigma Phi Epsilon. My words today will concentrate on the values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love and my thoughts about how to apply these values to your daily living.
I like the term virtue because one of its synonyms is integrity. How do we become people of integrity, how is integrity taught, how do we show our integrity? To me, true virtue is integrity and integrity is doing the right thing even when the wrong thing may be easier, more fun, or profitable. Integrity is when you have the opportunity to do wrong, but you stop reflect and realize your folly before the wrong thing is done. A person of integrity always does what is right. Integrity is reading the book and not the cliff notes. Integrity is doing the research and writing the paper and not piecing together a paper from internet sources and wikipedia notes. As a person of integrity, you must treat other people with dignity and respect at all times. As we traverse this world, we go through many stages of development, but the core of who we are is developed early on and what we must do is to nurture that core as we evolve so that we can grow into virtuous beings who give of ourselves abundantly. My encouragement for you all who are living a balanced life is to put people before possessions and to always give more than you receive. A mark of virtue is not how much you know, accumulate, or profit, but how much you share your talents and resources with others.
The next characteristic is diligence. Diligence means careful and persistent work or effort.
synonyms: conscientiousness, assiduity, hard work, application, concentration, effort, care, industriousness, rigor, meticulousness, and thoroughness.
In order to be effective in whatever you do, you must put in the time. You must be determined, persistent, and persevere. It is not the starting of a task, but the completion that is the mark of diligence. A component of diligence is discernment in which you stay connected and make wise decisions even if the work is hard and the journey is sluggish. You continue regardless of the pace because the accomplishment is the true reward.
I practice diligence through having courageous conversations. Sometimes we avoid things or do not follow through because we may be afraid of the consequences or outcomes. If we are due diligent, we will find ways in order to confront these barriers and persevere. The components of a courageous conversation are to:
Experience the Discomfort
Speak Your Truth
Expect and Accept Non-Closure
Stay Engage: If you are entering a difficult conversation with someone and you are trying to get your point across, you must first listen to be understood; therefore, you must stay engaged. All too often, we want to tell our story instead of listen to the other perspective. We get frustrated by what is said and we abandon the conversation without even engaging our input. A truly diligent person will stay engaged, listen intently, discern, contribute, and then reflect on the nuances of the conversation based on the mutually unfolded ideas.
Experience Discomfort: During this engagement period, you may experience much discomfort. The person you are conversing with may confront your beliefs and values -- those virtues that you hold most sacred. Our first defense is flight or fight, but to stand our ground when we are uncomfortable is an act of diligence. We must experience the discomfort in order to challenge our thinking beyond our initial view and to broaden our understanding based on new information; or we must use this opportunity to enlighten others about our values and why we want to remain steadfast in our beliefs.
Speak Your Truth: It important to speak your truth. Your truth is a creation of your environment and experiences. You are not an empty vessel or mindless person that need to follow lock-and-step the whelms and wishes of others. You are what you are. You are your own unique creation and you get to speak your truth that is grounded in your convictions. Be mindful that your truth may not be unanimously accepted, but you still have the right to champion your beliefs.
Expect and Accept Non-closure: Often when conversations are courageous, they may not end in closure or tidy agreements in which everyone reaches consensus, hold hands, and sang songs of fellowship. Sometimes conversations leave us raw, vacuous and unfulfilled. In these cases, we stayed engaged, experienced the discomfort, spoke our truths, but left the conversation incomplete or empty. At this point, we realize that we need time for reflection; and we must revisit the conversation another day.
As you traverse through college and life, you will have copious courageous conversations. If you remain diligent when these conversations occur, you will indeed learn, develop, and evolve.
Brotherly Love means feelings of humanity and compassion toward one's fellow humans.
When I first moved to Iowa four years ago, I was somewhat out of my comfort zone due to my race, Southernness, and dispositional stances. I knew that Iowans were progressive, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people based on their values, politics, and strong education systems. I experience the sense of brotherly love from Iowans early in my move to Iowa.
I had a license plate bulb that had burned out on my car. I was stopped by a police person and told that I must get this fix immediately or I would be given a citation. I went to an Advance Auto store and bought the bulb. I thought that this was going to be an easy installation, but I soon found out that it was a tiny little bulb that had to be placed in a very tight space with a certain amount of finesse. I have many talents, but being mechanical is not one of them. As I fumbled in the cold and snow outside of the store in an attempt to put the bulb in, many Iowans came to my rescue. It became almost a community event as seven to eight people stood around to problem solve, make attempts, and offer encouragement as others tried. Finally, a young girl with smaller fingers took a try and immediately the bulb was in place. We all stood around and cheered this small victory. It was at that time that I felt comfortable and at home in Iowa. I then realized that "if you embrace Iowa, Iowa will hug you back." Iowa is truly a place of brotherly and sisterly love. In order to embrace this sense of humanity in the College of Education, we have a Safe Zone placard that reads:
This Is A Safe Zone
This zone is declared safe! Regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age or ability, you will be treated and respected as a human being. Ignorance, bigotry and harassment will not be tolerated.
We encourage all of our faculty and students to put these placards on their office and room doors so that all people can feel the brotherly and sisterly love that we convey. If you too want a placard for your room, you can pick one up outside my office door which is office 205 in the Schindler Education Center.
Once again, I welcome each of you to the University of Northern Iowa. I appreciate your journeys that brought you to this Balanced Man Scholarship event. I hope that you practice the virtues of integrity, diligence, and brotherly love, daily. This is only the beginning of a great adventure. As you live your life, and you live it more abundantly, remember the words of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
All the times you can, to all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Thank you for your time and I applaud your presence.