Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Invitation

One of the things I enjoyed most about my fraternity was how we delivered bids. A large group of us would arrive to the recruit's residence hall, and call for him to come outside.  Once he did, we would gather around him, and someone would give a short speech and then extend the bid.  If he said he needed to wait, or even if it was no, we would applaud with respect.  If he said yes, then we would erupt in a cheer louder than a South American soccer stadium.  For a couple of years, as president, I used to give the speech.  I would try to to say different things to add to the gravity and inspiration of the moment.  And I would always end with "what do you say?"  I think I did a decent job.  But as recruits are being given bids across the country in the next few weeks, I took a moment to think about what I would say now - 20 years wiser.  And I think it would sound something like this:

I'd like to give you an invitation.

This isn't an invitation to member of this fraternity.  Instead, this is an invitation to be a better person.

That's not to say you are a bad person now.  Far from it.  But you can be a better person.

Those of us standing here, participating in this moment, accepted that invitation and are living testaments to its power.  For each person here is a better person now than they were before they said yes.

This invitation includes us.  So take a hard look.  Look into our eyes.  These are the people who will help make you better.  We are in turn looking at someone who will do the same for each of us.

This is an invitation to find yourself.  To accept that there is so much more of you to find.  To understand that it's because of challenging situations partnered with supportive friends that any of us truly find ourselves. 

This is an invitation to love each day for what it is: a chance to influence the world around you.

This is an invitation to get up from the couch, to step forward while others stand still, to emerge instead of withdraw.  To take the hits, the blows, and the constant pressure of a visible existence and never stop smiling.

This is an invitation for sacrifice.  By saying yes, we will accept a piece of your time, your talents, your resources, and your intellect.  You can't hide those things.  This is an invitation to be generous with who you are - both your strong aspects and your weak ones.  The strong aspects we'll accept as your contributions to our mission.  The weak aspects we'll accept as your willingness to be vulnerable.

This is an invitation to embrace the hardest lessons life can throw your way.  How to keep integrity when the other choice is easier.  How to choose between justice and mercy.  How to care for someone by letting them go.  How to balance personal ambitions with the collective needs of others.  And then there will be even more lessons the next day.

This is an invitation to laugh.  This is an invitation to make memories early in the morning, late at night, and every hour in between.  This is an invitation to press the gas pedal a little harder.

This is an invitation to care more about the conversations around the dinner table than the trophies in the cabinet.  It's an invitation to be human, so that you can find your humanity.  It's an invitation to matter as much to these individuals as almost anyone else in their lives right now.

This is an invitation to a life informed by values that span the test of time and generations.  You will be asked to speak words that have undeniable power.  Words that will echo through decades hence and decades yet to come.  Words that we have spoken and will bond us with you forever.  Words that amplify your soul.

This is an invitation to live deeply.

And the fraternity membership is included.

What do you say?


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