Monday, September 20, 2010

The Passion of a Student Leader

On September 20, Brandon Busteed, a graduate of Duke University and founder and CEO of Outside the Classroom, came and spoke to a group of about thirty Loyola University Maryland students. The main point of his lecture was how one can deal with the challenges of becoming a student leader, especially when it comes to making unpopular and hard decisions. This is important because it not only relates to my life, and the lives of many other college students, but also to the life of Kahu in Whale Rider.

Brandon Busteed was a freshman at Duke when he was elected to his first leadership position. He was elected president of his residence hall, and began to represent his dorm at many meetings across the campus. In the proceeding years, he held many other student leadership positions, with none being more important than his position as president of a group on campus that provided social alternatives to drinking. He saw how many people were dangerously binge drinking and the damage it caused, and decided to stand up against it. Although highly disregarded in beginning due to Ben and the group’s passion for an unpopular idea, the group started attracting the silent majority of students who did not drink. The group held parties, dances, and music shows, all alcohol free. Ultimately, this position as president of an OPTIONS-like club propelled him to even higher positions at Duke, including class president and a position on the Board of Trustees. It also influenced his company Outside the Classroom, which creates programs like AlcoholEdu that inform college students of the dangers of binge drinking and the problems that come with it.

Brandon’s main point of his lecture was that in order to become a true student leader, one must be truly committed to overcome the difficulties faced by choosing unpopular ideas, just as he was when he began his social alternatives club. Brandon stated that this commitment comes from one’s true beliefs. If you stick to your beliefs, others who see them and believe the same thing will follow you. These others are called the silent majority, who do not follow their beliefs through actions. They wait for a leader, thus making it imperative that students step to the plate, and take action. Here at Loyola, I have faced some of the same issues Brandon has. On this campus, forty one percent of students go out on the weekends and drink. I am not one of these students, and neither are the other fifty nine percent. We have chosen the unpopular idea, yet we have a passion for our beliefs and moral standards. Now, there still may be a silent majority who have not taken action necessary to show their passion, but I plan on becoming a student leader and helping them. Brandon stated, “Passion creates leaders, and leaders bring change,” and I plan on doing exactly that.

Passion for unpopular ideas not only is relevant in reality, but also in the novel Whale Rider. The chiefs of Maori tribe have always been passed down through the firstborn son. In the story, a girl, Kahu, is the first born, and the lineage of chiefs is passed down through her. She also has the powers of the whale rider, a male position. Her great-grandfather, Koro, is very opposed to these beliefs, as are many of the other members of the tribe. He denies her every chance to show him that she is the chosen one. But as Kahu’s powers and passion to become the whale rider arise, a silent majority also comes about, especially from Nanny Flowers and Rawiri. Finally at the end of the book, Kahu overcomes the unpopular idea of becoming the whale rider, by becoming exactly that and saving the tribe. Her serious commitment to become the whale rider ultimately saves her tribe and the whales, and provides a prime example of what Brandon Busteed meant in his lecture.

Brandon Busteed’s lecture provided Loyola University Maryland with a new idea. It has given Loyola a new way to approach difficult situations. It has given the members of school the ability to stand up for their passion, just like Brandon and Kahu did. Ultimately, it has provided Loyola University Maryland with leaders ready to stand up against bad social norms, and the passion to fight against them

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