Have you ever realized there are only a couple hundred people in this school? Or so you’d think if you pay even passing attention to student politics.
If you’ve been here for a few years, you must have noticed this pattern by now—an isolated group, a small segment of the student population, garners a relatively large amount of attention in this school. These are the people who spend their time in university immersing themselves in student government, campus media, athletics, philanthropy and other pursuits. These individuals pulse in and out of the spotlight, changing allegiances and occupations along the way.
Some of the more prominent ones even catch the attention of average students. The AMS and faculty elections make this phenomenon especially palpable, but it’s a perennial trend. There’s a tendency to label them as instigators, social climbers and many other pejoratives.
We need to evaluate prominent individuals in our community on the basis of their quantifiable skills and abilities, not our perception of their appetite for power.
To want more for yourself—whether in terms of wealth, notoriety or any other good—isn’t evil, it’s a natural human motivator. We need to fight the stigma surrounding ambition and change the cadence with which we address people who display it.
I’m asking you to start evaluating more constructive metrics, like a person’s intelligence. It’s a recipe for disaster—we can’t afford to blindly discredit people for a demonstrated lack of humility.
It’s important to change our attitudes now because university is a microcosm of society. The same people that contend for leadership positions here will do so in the real world, when the stakes are much higher.
It might be true that aspirations don’t always breed acumen, and people who are driven toward success are not always the most intelligent or talented members of the community. This is simply because they’re the most visible.
But ambition must be viewed as its own merit. The most innovative ideas are never implemented except for the devotion of ambitious people. That’s why we need to fight the stigma surrounding this vital character trait, even in our miniature society.
In a world where ambition is vilified, the mediocre are sure to thrive.
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