Things change. This is not a new idea. This is something that happens all the time, in a variety of places, in a variety of ways. Change can be great. It can be terrible. But it happens, undeniably, inevitably, and all that we can hope for is that we have the capability to adapt to that change, to adjust our patterns of behavior so as to best deal with the revolutions that occur around us. If we strive for a return to a prior state, well, I guess that’s perfectly acceptable, but the wheels of time are rarely forgiving of that attitude. Openness to change…it lends itself to the possibility of failure, to be sure, but it also ensures that we take any risks at all, that we make any progress at all. And in our youth, I think that willingness to fail, to explore new ways to do things, that openness to just try, is invaluable in helping us carve out what sort of goals we would ultimately want to accomplish for ourselves throughout our lifetime. Exploration is risk, but ships were not built to sit safely in the harbor. This openness to vulnerability is what has enabled me to post these thoughts on the internet at all, let alone live safely and healthily in this country as a gay Asian-American man.
I have had the sincere pleasure of being a member of one of the most forward-thinking organizations at my university. It is an organization that was founded on the tenets of activism, integrity and enthusiasm—a belief that people who follow the ambitious passions in their hearts and trust in their informed judgments can persevere to effect change in their communities, maybe even the world. I love that within this organization, I have not only been able to meet some of the most kind-hearted and inspiring people I have met in my entire life, but that I have also been able to collaborate and conversate with a collective of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of effective leadership in addressing the issues and problems that we face as a generation—as the human race.
I guess what I’m having the most difficulty contending with in regards to this organization, which I treasure quite dearly, is the deeply institutionalized resistance to change—or even just trying out something new—that I feel has characterized the organization ever since it emerged from the glorious, hallowed period of its inception. As a relatively new member of the organization, I have felt—and often been told explicitly—that I have missed the so-called “golden days” of the organization, that I never got a chance to experience the truest, purest form of the culture that the organization once used to have. I have seen the incoming members fall prey to the same sort of condescending legends—many of us have been made to feel as if we are steadily moving further away from the organization as it once was, at its absolute best. We are constantly comparing our experiences with the organization with the experiences we feel cheated out of. We are embittered, discouraged, and disillusioned while the members of the old guard look out upon the organization and lament about the way things once were.
But ultimately, I think we are wrong in feeling this way. I hope I may be so bold as to say that the golden days are yet to come.
We say that we must adhere to standards established by those before us, that without those standards, we have nothing, that we are undeserving of respect and legitimacy. I contest that, given the youth of this organization, and quite frankly, a disconnect from the national council that claims its jurisdiction over us, we have full license to revisit and revise these standards as we see fit. The nature of our organization, the very idea of it, is such that it thrives upon the diversity of the leaders that it is meant to empower and the ideas and hopes that those leaders may have. To expect all future members of the organization to fall in line perfectly with our own ideas is short-sighted, and personally, hazardous to us as leaders striving for positive change. We must entrust ourselves with the ability and the responsibilty to maintain those standards that, throughout time, remain applicable and relevant to our organization. We must not be afraid to abandon those principles which we have tested and seen fail or have simply become replaced by more pertinent values and standards. And throughout this formative period, we must continually have the unabashed freedom to discuss and explore the role and purpose of our organization in our campus community, in our development as leaders, and in our lives as a whole. It is always remarkable to see the profound loyalty to the organization that our members have, but I want to entreat them to wonder if they truly love the organization and believe in all that it could be, or if they solely love the organization as it existed in 2009.
Lastly, to the leaders of this organization, I want to encourage them to keep facing their challenges with their heads held high, and I want them to know that their efforts to work with this group of energetic and diverse leaders have not gone unseen. I applaud their endeavors to spearhead new projects and goals, and I caution them to not let themselves be trapped under the foot of dogma. Their work will undoubtedly leave its mark on the foundation of this organization, which, as we’ve seen tonight, is still being constructed, maybe even envisioned. And considering we’ve only been around for three years, I think that’s totally fine. But we all have to do what we can to help build upon that foundation and, hopefully, emerge as a family after all is said and done.