May 10, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
I walked towards the banner today. Slowly, watching it grow larger as I approached from the distance. The last time I saw this banner was four years ago…
The day was hot and muggy. We were all decked out in our preppy attire eager for the grand convocation welcome, and exhausted from a week of orientation. I remember sitting there next to the girls of Spotswood Third Upper day-dreaming about the next four years of college; the adventures, college parties, clubs and organizations that I would join, when all of the sudden the president took the podium. I vaguely remember what he said, other than a resounding welcome for the Class of 2013. What I remember is the faces of the students around me. Excited and smiling, faces full of wonderment and curiosity of what the next four years would bring. A few of us in the row squeezed hands as he acknowledged the bond between the freshman hall and how these friendships lasted a lifetime. It sprinkled rain at one point, but no one seemed to care; we were the class of 2013 and NOTHING could take us down! As the ceremony came to a close there was an overwhelming roar of cheers from the Class of 2013. However, when the crowd quieted down the noise didn’t stop. Somewhat confused my fellow classmates and I looked at one another and shrugged, maybe our ears were playing tricks on us? The next thing we knew the doors to the Wren building flew open and on the other side of the building one could see the heads of hundreds of students all shouting and cheering. Never in my life have I felt so loved and welcomed. One by one each freshman passed through the building and walked out into a sea of upperclassmen smiling, waiting to greet us. The year 2013 a distant thought, it seemed nearly impossible to imagine.
Four years later I walked towards the banner. I smiled thinking how fast this time has gone, and how grateful I am for the many moments here. As is normal these days, I smiled and then I burst into tears… There is no way to put into words the emotions of Commencement. Four years of dedication, hard work and persistence and then, like that, it’s over. Underclassmen, treasure it. It truly does go by fast.
As I looked at the banner hanging above the door to The Wren Hall I couldn’t help but think of the diversity in the Class of 2013. Listening to the ambitions and dreams of my fellow classmates over the past few weeks has been a humbling experience. Nonprofits, business corporations, private entities – you name it, we’re doing it. Our class boasts some of the best and brightest in the nation, yet they are humble and driven by a desire to do good in this world. I could not be more proud to be a member of this remarkable group of individuals.
Sunday morning we will walk under the banner once again. This time, a more solemn tone, but a celebratory walk nonetheless. To the Class of 2013, WE DID IT! I hope each of you will walk with your head high and your heart beaming knowing that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, you are a part of the Class of 2013 and the College of William & Mary!
April 22, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
Lately I have been having a lot of moments where I stop and pause to think about the past four years at William & Mary. I find myself slowing down when I walk to and from class, pausing to notice little treasures about the College that once seemed unimportant. Have you ever noticed that there is a bed of tulips walking into the Sunken Garden where the willow tree fell, did you know that the echo wall can be used by two people at once, or that the portraits in the Great Hall of Wren are former presidents?
So many little things about William & Mary that we, as seniors, still don’t even know – and that is the beauty of our college. To each individual the College represents something else; a special place where you’ve grown into the person you’ve always wanted to be, a place of hardships and frustrations that only worked out in the end, strictly an academic institution where you chose to sped the past four years, and the list goes on.
Something pressing on my heart recently is the idea of philanthropy and the value of giving at William & Mary. Without philanthropy so many of the little treasures at the College that make it so unique would cease to exist. With less than 13% of our operating budget being state sponsored, the College is heavily dependent upon private donors to sustain its successful programs. People praise the community that is so strong here at the College, but the community will only remain strong if we, as friends, family and alumni of the College invest in its well being.
When I first came to William & Mary I thought it would be crazy to donate anything above the sum that the financial office asked for tuition. It seemed ludicrous that anyone would want to give back to the College after paying so much money to simply attend.
Over the course of the past four years, I have seen first-hand the impact of private giving and the importance of participating in philanthropy. In cultivating a community, all members must be engaged and participating in some capacity. So much value can be derived from even a small donation; time or money. Clubs, organizations, academic facilities, staff, genuinely every subset of campus benefits.
The prestige, recognition and value derived from a degree at William & Mary is directly correlated with the opportunity that we, as students, have . The culture of academic excellence, vibrant engagement and immense student participation can all be attributed to the experiences that we have as a result of the private monies that we have given.
Just as we have a responsibility to change the world with our education, I believe that we should be accountable to those students behind us who deserve to have the same incredible opportunities that we have had at William & Mary.
For those of you who are seniors, please consider donating to the Senior Class Gift today!
February 19, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
One of my favorite songs goes, “There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears…”
I often wonder what the future holds, but feel liberated by the fact that I will never know. Like great theorists and intellectuals who have come before me I can postulate about the state of the world years from now and hope that I will be accurate in my attempts to explain the future, but in actuality the best I can do is guess. Through discussing and hypothesizing our thoughts about the future, I believe that we can take preventative measures sooner rather than later to understand the human species and our place in this world. These ideas are no use in the time capsule of my own computer, so I will share them with you.
By 2063 we will have an advance understanding of medicine with a cure for cancer, AIDS and HIV. Cloning, blood analysis and other accomplishments will have been made in this world, however the ramifications of modern medicine will be great, potentially creating diseases that cannot be cured. The primary health concerns will be carpal tunnel, arthritis, vision problems and hearing defects as a result of the many hours behind a computer typing away and staring at a screen and listening to music at high volume.
Violence will take new shape. States will not be invested in war the same way that we are today, because in 2063 human capital will be of little value to war. The crux of war will be man-made machines such as drones that will be so advanced that they will require little operational skill or ability. The tactic of self-sacrifice through suicide bombing or plane-crashing will be archaic and the spread of lethal diseases and chemical will be our greatest fears. Terrorism will be more advanced and networked in many areas all over the world. By 2063 North Korea will have tried to detonate a bomb on the United States, but failed in their attempts to blow up the country. As a result of this catastrophe the international community will understand the severity of nuclear weapons and will agree to thwart all nuclear programs. An international government will be established between countries where states are self-policing and mutually accountable to one another. The United States will not be the hegemon that it is today.
By 2063 we will have had our first woman president and potentially our first homosexual president. In fact, it is possible that democracy will be re-imagined entirely to be more accommodating of our 21st century needs. The term globalization will no longer exist because the world will be so inter-connected that there will be no need to explain this phenomena. English will still be the language of the world, but increasingly more people will speak Mandarin and Spanish.
Due to population control families will be limited to two children in developed countries. Alternative sources of energy will be discovered, likely in the form of a natural resource that currently exists but that has not been discovered for this purpose. To combat water issues someone will create a water filtration system that will allow individuals to rapidly purify salt water to utilize the 71% water on earth. This will not be sustainable, but will be necessary for survival. Further, someone will invent a filter system for the shower that allows you to only use 5-10 gallons per shower. The system will be replaced with new water once annually.
Education will not exist in the traditional sense, but will be primarily online using websites such as Coursera. Students will spend the majority of their time participating in online classrooms with students from all over the world, and then meeting periodically in person with students in their local area. It is possible that by the year 2063 students will have holograms of themselves that will sit around the table in a virtual room to share ideas and information with one another. Questions about ethics will arise as developers create brain chips that allow someone to access computer databases full of information simply by thinking about them. Peoples’ perception of themselves and their identity will not be tied to a specific country, but rather the people that they are surrounded by in their living communities.
I realize that this is a somewhat pessimistic view of the world and where will be 50 years from now. My hope is that despite these dramatic developments and advancements, humanity will unite to create a more peaceful world. That people will be more actively engaged citizens collaborating together to eradicate social issues and reduce divides across politics and opinions. Who knows, maybe we can create a world with no more tears, no more lies and no more fears.
January 31, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
How do you do “good” while sustaining yourself? There has been a lot of recent talk about social entrepreneurship and doing good while making profit for the organization. In this new, emerging field it is difficult to distinguish what percent should be committed to making a profit and what percent should be aimed at eradicating the social issue. In order to be sustainable the company must have revenue of some sort, but the question is just how much?
We are human, and cannot deny our innate competitive instincts that often drive us to put ourselves above our passion or cause. We perpetuate this idea that you should only give when you have a surplus of time, energy, money or alternative resources. But, what if we chose to see the world as a collective effort to better life for everyone around the world? What if every time we did something to help ourselves, we did something to help someone else?
I am currently caught between two worlds. Being an International Relations major, my studies of international security tell me that the only way to survive in the world is to serve your own self-interest. In this world, power is zero sum and there is no agreement that is mutually beneficial. In this world, someone always wins and someone always loses. It is a fact and one of the widely accepted tenants of international relations theory.
The other half of my heart is community engagement, service and collective betterment. In this world, you only engage in negotiations or trades that are mutually beneficial for both parties. Here, you are expected to be pro-social and you often deny your innately competitive nature to serve the collective good of society. You do not exploit the lower tier of society, but rather act from a place where everyone has the potential to benefit. There is great risk, but also great potential for reward.
How do you combine these worlds? I imagine this is a question that businessmen and women, politicians, theorists, academics, and others deal with. What causes someone to be socially conscious? Is it their upbringing and the environment in which they live? Is it life experience or exposure? Are socially conscious people simply anomalies? I don’t think so.
Social entrepreneurship is the bridge between these worlds. You can better yourself and your company, but you can also better society and the world. Think about it this way; if I were to give you one million dollars without any stipulations, you would take it without hesitation. But, if I gave you the opportunity to take a million dollars conditional upon the fact that I would match your one million with another one million you would have to give someone in need, you’d likely take it as well. The only sacrifice to you is the effort you would exert to administer those million dollars to an impoverished community. That is social entrepreneurship; giving to others, while providing for yourself. The model sustains itself while attacking the root of the social issue; what’s not to love?
This emerging field gives me hope that someday these two worlds might meet. There is great opportunity for us to move forward both personally and as a society, but it takes a commitment on our part to innovate, inspire and create.
January 15, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
Our feet immersed deep in the sand as salty sea mist brushed across our lips and a setting sun danced softly in our eyes, a peace that few will ever know…
Gazing out at the light reflecting off the water and onto the golden sand, I asked her why we went to college when we could live a simple life. We could take off and explore far away in a jungle, roam the mountainside for hours on end or adventure around the world.
We have the privilege of an education, she said, her youthful innocence falling away as a sense of obligation crept into her light blue eyes. Selfishly I would love to feel this peace every day, this knowing that I would live heartily and happy for the rest of my life. There would not be a care in the world, a trouble or a doubt that life is wonderful. She stopped and stared out at the sea. But, I have a responsibility. It is not enough for me to feel this peace, this joy and this freedom. I go to college with the hope that someday I will give another soul this peace that I feel. I pray that my knowledge and understanding of the world will be used to make it a better place for all people. I owe at least that much to the world. As we made it to the big rocks she continued, hundreds of people die of malnutrition every single day from lack of clean water, insufficient food and depleted resources. There is a desperate call for help and the world needs us now. I glanced up to look at her face cast down and distraught. Her voice grew soft as emotion overtook her, my best friend in the world is fighting in the IDF in Israel while one of my former classmates shoots across the border at her from Palestine. They too are friends, but their loyalties to their counties demand that they fight. I am not there; I do not know this fear. I cannot begin to understand the struggles that they face and yet a part of me is with them. Two years ago we sat in a classroom together, all teenagers struggling with thoughts about our identities and questions about our insecurities. We shared insights on war and peace, we dreamed of the possibilities of diplomacy and negotiation. It feels as if those dreams are gone. She looked up to the beautiful sky now reflecting deep shades of pink, red, orange and yellow, sometimes I want to give up, she said. I want to drop out of school, move to paradise and live happily ever after. But I can’t and I won’t. I won’t ever give up. I won’t quit. Why? Because there are people out there that need me. People who I don’t even know who will never know this peace I feel today. At that, she burst into tears.
We continued on down the beach. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live an isolated existence? I pause to think. From time to time I’ve pondered this question, asking myself what if I was the only one. Carefully, as not to offend her I say, to me an isolated life is a life unfilled. We are all called to act, to contribute and share with the gifts and skills we are given. Just as you believe that education is the key to peace, I believe that everyone can play a part in creating it. Regardless of his or her experiences and opportunities, anyone can be that someone. Quietly we continued on both captivated by a flood of thoughts that consumed our minds…
December 28, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
If I had just one wish it would be this:
I wish I could sit down and have the most beautiful meal you have ever seen in a dining hall with a 3 year old Maddy, a 6 year old Maddy, 8 year old me, 12, year old Maddy, and so on until the present day Maddy. I would sit at the head of the table and ask myself questions about my thoughts on the world, on my passions, my life goals, my ambitions and dreams at each stage of my life. I would sit and look around the table seeing the effects of time and change. I would likely envy the innocence of my little self, and say a prayer over the middle school Maddy for all of her insecurities. I would celebrate my accomplishments of the years, and cry alongside of the younger versions of me for the different struggles that I am facing at each of these stages of life. I would listen to my stories intently focusing on the detail taking myself back to those moments in life that were so sweet. The future Maddy would be standing just on the other side of the door waiting her turn to enter, listening through the walls and waiting for the moment when she too can join the table. Occasionally she gets to peak into the room as the servers open and close the door. She has a flash back into the past for just a moment before the door closes again and she is back in the future moment.
I wonder if the little Maddy would be proud? Would she look at me and celebrate the person that I have become; would she want to be me when she grows up? Or would she look at me and think that I’ve disappointed her because I didn’t do all that I was capable of? Whenever I doubt what I’m doing or where I’m going I think back on whether or not she would be proud of the person that I have become. I hope that she would look on me in awe and wonder impressed by all that I have accomplished and curious to know how I got there.
Time is an interesting phenomenon that continues running forward despite how hard you try to stop it. Regardless of whether or not I want it to, May 2013 will come, I will graduate from William & Mary and my life will continue moving forward. So, my hope for you is that you embrace it. Appreciate the moment where you are, here and now and don’t wait for something to happen; create the moment yourself. If you want to take a risk, embrace it. If love is what you seek, chase it. If your heart calls you to serve, do it. If you are pushed out of your comfort zone, enjoy it. If you’re broken, fix it. I do believe that you write your part in the story you create, but the little girl in me secretly likes to believe in wishes. If wishes inspire dreams and dreams do come true – for this New Year, what would you wish?
November 13, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
It dawned on me a few days ago the importance of sharing your love language. I was sitting in the middle of a crowded cafe watching old couples, young students, children and families interact. Conversation flowed easily for some, more forced for others, but together this sea of voices created a melody that served as soft background music to my lame attempts at studying. In a quick glance scanning the room, I was able to recognize multiple gestures of love; the way that he leaned in close to hear her Halloween story, the look the little boy gave his father as he reached to grab his hand, the giddy talk of the two girls sitting in the corner who sent laughter echoing throughout the café, and the romantic gaze between the couple who looked into one another’s eyes as they enjoyed a late afternoon coffee. As I carried away busily typing my paper and furiously scribbling notes from my textbook I looked up to catch the eye of an older gentleman sitting in the corner of the room. He politely smiled and turned back to his book. It was such a simple gesture, but so unexpected and genuine that I nearly got up out of my seat to thank him. Over the next ½ hour I watched people come and go from the café each of them passing by the old man, without a second glance. I can only imagine his story, all that he has experienced in his life, and it is likely that I will never know. But as I observed the hustle and bustle of the café I noticed something special about him. Periodically, he would stop, look up from his book, make eye contact with someone, smile the most genuine smile I have ever seen, and then turn back down to his book. He clearly understood the power of a smile. The language of love. Love language is something that we often overlook, but I think is truly necessary to share and to spread…
They say that there are five official love languages that drive our interactions with one another; words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Each individual has a love language they speak and receive, perpetuating positive feelings and encouraging love. Take a moment to stop and consider what language you speak. Kind words. Meaningful cards. Thoughtful presents. Endless time. A heartfelt hug. Volunteering to help. What ways do you like to receive? A pat on the back. Help completing a project. A warm plate of cookies. An ear to hear your woes. Someone telling you you’re good enough. What makes you smile?
I believe in the goodness of people. In a world where color means beauty and class is just a word. I believe in a world where love is a universal language that can be understood across seas and beyond boundaries. I believe that emotions are the common thread between us all, and love, or lack thereof, defines those feelings. In this world, you decide your part. You have the power to tear others apart or build people up with your words, actions and thoughts. What amazes me is why anyone would ever choose the former. Ultimately, there’s no way to “love right” the important thing is that you’re doing it; you are loving and living every day trying to share it; your love language.
October 10, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
There are things we all strive to be. Expectations we hope to meet and goals we work to attain. It’s human nature. This afternoon we were graced by the presence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who reminded us that at the end of the day we are all human and we are all capable of practicing compassion and spreading love. Regardless of our history, or beliefs, our backgrounds or ambitions we can love without bounds. He challenged us to practice living with open minds and remain clam in the chaos. But, of all the quotes, stories and anecdotes, I came away with one thing; the joy in his laughter. As it echoed across William & Mary Hall contagiously sweeping across the crowd, his laughter filled the auditorium. I couldn’t help but smile as I turned around to see hundreds of people beaming. His life is a gift. His message is a prayer. And, his inspiration is indefinite. He is one man who has committed his life to making the world a better place. One man who is challenging what we know. One man who is encouraging us to practice our virtues. One man.
As he talked, his eyes danced and his mouth bent up in a small smile. The ease in his voice and comfort in his disposition made it feel as if the audience was sitting on his living room floor listening to a story he had told a million times. He spoke from his heart. His talk got me thinking a lot about the power of one life and the message that you can send through your life’s song. As an individual who is passionate, curious, and intelligent, you have the power to impact the world. You can choose to build people up, encourage their dreams and foster their interests. You can build organizations, better relationships, support leaders and vocalize issues. You have the power to make the world a better place. You, too, can spread laughter.
September 19, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
Years from now you’ll look back on this moment and smile. You’ll smile because you’ll realize what you have created. You’ll smile for the many lives that you’ve touched and the impact you’ve made. You’ll smile with gratitude and thanks in your heart, grateful for the people in your life who have helped shape you.
You might not realize it now, but someday you’ll look back and smile on all of those times you were scared of what the future would hold. You’ll smile thinking about those fears and understand that you ended up exactly where you need to be. You’ll smile thinking of the many innocent memories and reminisce on the days when you weren’t responsible for anyone other than yourself. Maybe you’ll still be alone, but you’ll smile knowing that you wouldn’t have done it differently. When you look back on these times you’ll smile when you remember your awkward moments and greatest achievements. You’ll smile at the many things that have changed and likely the many things that have remained. You’ll smile at the vistas you can remember and the world that you have experienced. You’ll smile for your loved ones and the ones who lost touch, imagining their lives and their happy moments. You’ll smile for the days when you would sleep until 1pm without a worry in the world. You’ll smile for the times you just skimmed by and the times you worked your hardest. You’ll smile for the peace you’ll find in your heart when you realize that you’re smiling and then… You’ll smile again.
September 17, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
“I’m Good.” “Great, Thanks!” “Doing well.” “Having a great day!” On the outside, everything’s fine… But, do you want to know the truth? Everyone struggles. Everyone faces adversity. Everyone feels insecure and everyone wants to belong. Everyone searches for love, longs to be needed and hopes to be OK.
It’s all good. There is something to be said about acknowledging where you are and being who you need to be. We say that we’re fine because of instinct, habit or simply because we don’t want to “talk about it”. And, that’s OK too. Just know that you’re not alone. No one is perfect. Even those people who seem to have it all together, the perfect grades, the perfect hair, perfect car, perfect Facebook pictures; they’re all searching too. Isn’t that what life is? The process of discovering yourself. Getting to the place where you’re not comparing yourself with others, but living life for yourself. Doing things you love to do, because you love them, not because someone or something tells you that you should. Part of discovering your heart and your passions is acknowledging these struggles and listening to them so that you can move forward.
I believe that you should experience one thing every day that puts you out of your comfort zone. You should seek these moments and embrace them, because it is those experiences that help you realize what you are capable of. Sometimes your greatest personal growth comes from those personal struggles and insecurities; those moments when you are completely out of your comfort zone. If you allow yourself to learn from failure and see imperfections as opportunities, you might just find that your weaknesses are your greatest strengths.