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Remember two things

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We carp about parietals. We bemoan the limited quantities of food at senior week events. We grumble about the computer clusters and OIT. We even protest the placement of cheese in the dining hall.

If a scriptwriter came to Notre Dame on the wrong day, he’d have the title of a blockbuster movie in mind: “The Great Complainers.”

For all that we have, we can be a bit selfish and annoying at times. The appropriate term may be self-centered. Not always, but certainly too much. And this isn’t about the institution; it’s about us.

And I include myself among the worst offenders.

But there are two things we can think about that can change us from relatively spoiled whiners to the positive forces that Notre Dame graduates should be.

One. We can make a difference. Every community has its problems; every place has its issues. But we can help effect change. It takes effort, it takes persistence and it takes time. But it can be done.

We can be a part of the solution to problems that annoy us, and we can be a force for good anywhere we work or live. It’s easy to whine and complain about things that seem to be pointless and annoying. I know from experience.

It’s harder to take the time to contact the people in charge of building services, maintenance, landscaping services, etc. Making something better rarely occurs without effort. If we all pitch in when we can – in a positive, productive manner – we can make changes that benefit everybody.

Two. Remember the answer to this question: Where would you rather be?

Where is professing your faith not just a First Amendment right but rather an encouraged part of life? We’re at a Catholic school where a Muslim football player named Ryan Harris felt more comfortable living his religion than at secular schools because our ethos is to respect faithfulness, not shun it.

What colleges have not one, but two nationally recognized landmarks?

Where can you walk from a gorgeous basilica to a spiritual grotto to seek courage, strength, forgiveness or guidance?

Where does spring’s first 60-degree day mean hundreds of students throwing Frisbees, footballs and baseballs on two quads?

There are many places that can answer affirmatively to one or two of these questions. But few are like this place; not many can say yes to all.

Sure, we complain about parietals being arbitrary. And they are. They are an arbitrary rule that guarantee that boyfriends and girlfriends don’t get in the way of nine hours of possible sleep time on weeknights and seven on weekends.

They are much like the laws demanding that we drive on the right side of the road: totally arbitrary and a great way to avoid head-on collisions.

There are things we can complain about, things that should be changed about Notre Dame. There are things the administration could do better, things the class councils could organize much more efficiently.

But there’s only one place where we graduate from college, one place where most of us have spent four tremendous years of our lives.

I dreamt for 18 years that I would come here, earn a degree and witness a football national championship as an undergrad. Two out of three ain’t bad.

When I think of Notre Dame, I’m not going to think about where the condiments were in North Dining Hall. I’m not going to think about how construction made me lose my preferred exit from Siegfried while walking to DeBartolo. And I’m sure as heck not going to think about InsideND.

I’m going to think about friends. And football. And the Basilica. And professors who care about you and know your name. And service. And the Grotto. And Touchdown Jesus. And the Dome.

And how I was lucky enough to attend my dream school.

Ken Fowler wouldn’t be graduating from Notre Dame without his mom and dad, Chrissie and Walter; his brother, Danny; his grandmother, Pat; and everyone else in his family.

Ken will be teaching special education in New York City next year as a Teach For America corps member. He can be

contacted at [email protected]

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