Commitment never commences
Joe Everett | Friday, May 17, 2019
”Whatever you value, be committed to it and let nothing distract you from this goal. The uncommitted life, like Plato’s unexamined life, is not worth living.“ — The Hesburgh Papers, 1979.
Walking back from one of the last classes of my undergraduate career, I fell into a conversation with an underclassman as we strolled through North Quad.
“So, Joe,” he asked, trying to get me sentimental, “do you regret any of your commitments at Notre Dame?”
I thought for a while, wanting to give him an honest reply. The answer slowly dawned on me.
I was thankful for my commitments. Thankful beyond measure.
My fellow graduates, you probably are too.
Notre Dame is built upon and sustained by a commitment to a vision and a mission of educating the heart and the mind. Each of us has continued that tradition of commitment in so many ways and through so many roles, each of us adding a unique verse to this epic poem we’ve called “the undergraduate years.” So be proud of what you’ve committed yourself to, find joy in the memories (good and bad) you’ve made through those commitments, continue the friendships that you’ve cultivated, and discover how it has all led you to be the person you are today.
Speeches aside, I have three special commitments here at Notre Dame in particular that I wish to acknowledge.
The first is the place where I lived: Stanford Hall. Stepping inside those cinderblock walls during freshman move-in, I was instantly welcomed by an incredible community that quickly became my home. Through the commitment of so many great mentors, I decided early on to commit myself to build this special community any way I could, and am so thankful for every chance I got to serve in some capacity. A special thank you to my best friend, Chris Westdyk, for his tireless commitment to Stanford, his incredible strength in the face of adversity and for all the memories we shared together.
The second is the place where I learned: the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS). From the death and destruction of Homer’s “Iliad” to the shining vision of and commitment to justice and love as proclaimed by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” we’ve discussed the biggest and most important ideas humanity has considered, struggled with and committed to. Our willingness to voice our commitments, to hear those of others and grow in the process is what a Notre Dame education is all about. Thank you to my professors, my peers and especially my friends for making PLS a home. Here’s to never ceasing from exploration.
The third is the paper, and the people, I grew to love: The Observer. As anybody who’s been a part of this student newspaper will tell you, working in the office in the basement of South Dining Hall requires a tremendous amount of commitment, dedication and fortitude. The long nights are especially taxing (a few memorable nights included crawling into bed as the sun began to rise). And yet, the entire experience was absolutely worthwhile, not only because of the lessons it taught me, the experiences it afforded me and the stories I loved to share, but simply because of the amazing people that I met, worked with, and grew with throughout those long hours in that basement. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with such committed individuals, and I feel an immense sense of pride in the great work we created together.
All of this is to simply say that what has made our Notre Dame experience great is due to what we’ve committed ourselves to, and while these particular commitments have concluded their course, commitment in and of itself doesn’t commence. There’s a whole wide world waiting for you. You know your values. You know what you stand for. You know what you’re willing to fight for. You know what you’re willing to commit yourself to — and you’re able to commit yourself because your Notre Dame experience has trained you to do so.
And so we are sent forth, unprepared and yet ready. Home is where one starts from, but our new commitments await. Go out and do good work.
Joe Everett is graduating with a degree from the Program of Liberal Studies with a minor in peace studies. For the next years, he will be teaching fourth grade in Tucson, Arizona through the Notre Dame ACE program. Luckily, he’ll get to stay on campus this summer while he takes classes to earn his Masters of Education. He’ll miss the late nights in the Observer office jamming to music along with the many friendships he’s made, but is thankful for it all. He can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.