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Thank thee, Notre Dame

John Sandberg | Sunday, November 20, 2011

Normally I use this space to distribute my pearls of wisdom regarding world affairs, but my mom told me to be more “lighthearted” this week. “You should remind people that there are a lot of good things out there,” she said. Okay, Mom. After hanging up the phone I thought about what to choose as my subject.

Soon enough, the most valuable pearl of wisdom appeared at the front of my brain. I learned it in first grade, and it had little to do with world affairs: Mom is always right.

Lo and behold, she is right again. There are 364 days a year to hear about the bombs and the blood, 364 days to witness adults act like children and 364 days to decide how we are going to fix problems that need fixing. I have every other Monday to use this space to act like I understand the issues that are too complex to fully grasp. But not today.

Thanksgiving is upon us, that single day for momentarily setting aside all that is wrong and reflecting on all that is right. Turns out, attending the greatest university in the world gives you a lot to be thankful for.

Who has it better than us? Notre Dame is a place where 365 days’ worth of thanks still would not suffice.

It’s a place where ghosts are never far. Our ghosts are not unwelcome apparitions that intrude and disturb, but the hospitable spirits of an immensely storied past. One cannot help but walk these grounds and know that he or she is part of something much greater than his or herself.

It’s home to South Quad and the kid wandering through on a Saturday in autumn, whose permanent smile endures amid the icy wind tearing through his ND Starter jacket. It’s then and there, between bites of an under-cooked hotdog, that he announces (to no one in particular) he’s decided where he’ll be going to college.

It’s a land where frat bros and sorority sisters are foreign and “going Greek” means the dining hall is serving gyros.

Notre Dame is a place where the perpetual glow of the Grotto permeates the black shield of the darkest nights. I’m thankful that I still haven’t gotten used to the intense tranquility of this place, and I’m hopeful that I never will.

It’s an environment that possesses the can-do attitude of its founder, a man who decided that simply erecting another school after the original one burned down would not suffice. No, the renewed University of Notre Dame du Lac needed a golden exclamation point on top for people near and far to see.

Most important of all, it will forever be the home of numerous alumni who represent an invaluable piece of history. These are the people to whom we owe our gratitude, because the objects on this campus amount to nothing without the tradition that gives them worth. Yes, Notre Dame makes great people. But let’s not forget that great people continue to make Notre Dame.

So, for the graduates who think that Notre Dame’s current students don’t appreciate its history, I promise that’s not the case. We see the weathered class rings on your fingers. We know that our dorm parties are happening in the same rooms that housed our parents and grandparents. We know that whether you graduated in 1949 or 2009, you’ll always point out the ways in which we have it better and easier now. We know that the Alma Mater still makes you cry. We know the standard that has been set and the legacy we have to fill. To all of you, from all of us — thank you.

Back to my earlier question: Who has it better than us? Nobody. Praise thee, love thee, thank thee, Notre Dame.

John Sandberg is a sophomore English major. He can be reached at jsandbe1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.