Ayushi Agarwal, Photo Editor

Aspiring for Impact, Not for Recognition

By William Palmer

As I look back on my Emory career, I am overwhelmed by how much everyone has changed and how much the world has changed around us. I entered school thinking I could get involved in Democratic political campaigns, intern in Washington, D.C., help draft meaningful legislation and maybe shoot for a job at the White House. Oh well …

At Emory, like in the real world, the road to every achievement is paved with hundreds of failures, setbacks and tedious emails. I have had the honor of getting to watch and learn from the Emory leaders of yesterday. I found myself in awe at the power and potential of a student who is committed to an idea and is willing to work hard. I watched the birth and growth of events like Symposium and organizations like the Emory chapter of the NAACP. I’ve seen niche student initiatives become headlines in the Emory Report.

So much of what we do on campus is like a practice run for navigating the real world. Some people sacrifice fun for their work, others do what is asked of them and still others do little at all. Most of the true leaders and changemakers are not the ones making the Wheel’s front page, being invited to special lunches and being honored as “campus leaders.” Real achievements are tiring; they’re controversial; they’re un-sexy.

At Emory and in the world, most innovation and change doesn’t come from the government. Nonetheless, during my time on College Council and the Student Government Association I was able to help students turn their ideas into flourishing organizations. I worked with the limited power I had to make sure that students with good ideas could see them through. And I wrote a bill to dissolve and restructure our 50-year-old University-wide governing body against the advice of everyone around me, because I believed that it would help future Emory students.

Emory has hundreds of clubs and university organizations, with endless positions to fill. The title is easy to come by, but what matters is the hours you put in. The best advice I can give to any student hoping to be a leader is this: Be the person who puts in late night hours to plan an event that changes three people’s lives. Do more with your positions than will fit on your resumé.

At Emory, whether you’re highly involved or not, you have the ability to better your environment and to pursue any idea, no matter how big or small. Take advantage of it now, not for the rewards or recognition, but for the experience and personal growth. Those are the only things that will travel with you when you cross the decorated stage, shake the dean’s hand, and kiss your years of carefree intellectual exploration goodbye.

William Palmer is from Tyringham, Mass., and served as SGA speaker of legislature, SGA senior representative and Young Democrats of Emory president from 2017-2018. He plans to continue a fellowship with Venture for America after graduation.