At the end of my eighth grade year, in the land of Axe Body Spray and Japanese Cherry Blossom-scented everything, the high school journalism adviser, Nancy, approached me about joining the high school newspaper staff. At that point in my life, I didn’t know why hair was growing on my upper lip, much less how to work on a student newspaper. But for whatever reason, I agreed.
Nancy was a hoot. She had a contagious laughter and a spirit for all things goofy. Journalism was her last class of the day, and there were, during any given school year, no more than six students in the class. Six students plus last period equals fun. It was basic math.
I still don’t know what she saw in me that sparked her intrigue. My freshman year, she allowed me to redesign the masthead of the student newspaper, which I designed in Microsoft PowerPoint, and I wrote my stories as one giant, never-ending paragraph. I was no student media extraordinaire, but nevertheless, she persisted.
More than Nancy was a hoot, a laugh and a goof, she was a risk-taker; after all, she hired a freshman who thought it was OK to design a newspaper masthead in PowerPoint.
She gave me great freedom with responsibility. She let me ask why. She let me think beyond what The Tiger newspaper had always known. She let me run with fresh ideas, to which three pitifully humiliating Tiger News broadcast reports can attest. She was a risk-taker, to be sure.
I suppose that’s a little bit of what we’re doing here today, too. We’re asking you — fellow students, faculty, staff, administration and Harding community — to take a risk, to trust us to do our job. We’re asking you to take a risk on a bunch of twenty-somethings with one driving passion: to make Harding University the best it can be this year and for many, many more to come.
We’re asking you to take a chance on an experiment — an experiment that for centuries has asked humankind to examine itself and those in power. This grand experiment has transformed societies, and at Harding, it’s changed policies, broadened perspectives and inspired change. This world-wide experiment is one driven by a desire to always see things better than they currently are.
If at any point along the way this year you feel our experiment has gone awry — that our passion has become misplaced — I invite you to let me know. I’ll be the first to admit, we’ll make mistakes along the way. But at the end of the day, if we’re not making Harding the best it can be, I’ll join arms with you, and we’ll make it right.
As I invite you on this journey in trusting us to do our job, I can’t help but reflect on the invitation Nancy extended to me seven years ago. It lead me to greater heights, and I expect this standing invitation to you will do the same. Nancy’s invitation left me with great experiences, memories and friendships, but it wasn’t complete until she asked me to take a risk: to apply for Student Publications at Harding University. Though hesitant at first, I agreed once again. Look where we are today.
I’m excited about this year. I’m eager for the progress we’ll make together in continuing this centuries-old experiment. I’m thankful for the support we already have and the support we’ll receive. And, finally, I’m excited about this column: a space for reflection, a public diary, a tip of the hat, an ode to Nancy.