Baccalaureate Speech: Reco Sanders '11
Reco Sanders '11
Leadership Through Mentorship
Reco Sanders '11
On a Saturday morning in April I sat in a hotel lobby with Professor [Douglas] Edlin of the Political Science Department. This hotel was in Memphis, Tennessee, and we found ourselves here because our mock trial team had qualified for the National Championship Tournament. We had made it as far as we could go, but we did not wake up early and sit in the lobby to talk about our accomplishments. We sat in the lobby to talk strategy. Professor Edlin sat with me for 45 minutes to go over the material we had been going over for nine months. Professor Edlin and I were not just motivated by a desire to win, but to constantly improve.
That morning in April will stay in my mind long after I’ve forgotten how many rounds we won and lost that weekend. Professor Edlin has made all of my successes and failures learning experiences, and that morning, he was teaching me the lesson I needed most. Throughout my Dickinson education and my time as a mock trial competitor there were people who were smarter than me, people who had been exposed to things I’d never been exposed to, but few of them were as dedicated as I was to constantly preparing to be the best version of myself. Professor Edlin taught me, outside the classroom, the lesson I needed to excel as a student: There is no end to how well you can do when you’re prepared. Many of my fellow classmates can point to mentors they’ve had outside of the classroom who have given them lessons as important as the ones I received from my mock trial coach. These lessons will prove as invaluable as the ideas and theorists who informed our thinking during our pursuit of a liberal-arts education.
In an ideal world, I would have realized that morning in April what I know to be true now about the value of preparation. But, as with too many lessons in life, I needed time to put my experiences into perspective. I went away from that morning thinking my personal preparation was enough to succeed. And personal preparation would be enough for personal success, but mock trial is a team activity. I know I am not the only person who was able to achieve great things, working together with a group of fellow Dickinsonians. Your experience may be tied to a group you worked with for class. Others worked closely with dedicated classmates to coordinate trips for Serve the World or concerts to benefit areas struck by debilitating natural disasters. In whatever capacity, each of you gained the experience and the fulfillment that comes from working with a group toward a common goal. Each of us prepared with an understanding that we would only be as good as the integrity of each link in our metaphorical chain. Because of my co-captain, and my team, I saw that if I was only willing to selfishly strive for my own success, I was not truly preparing at all. We have all been fashioned into more capable leaders because of these experiences. The qualities we now possess may look innate to others, but I ask each of you to trace the origins of your skills and recognize the role Dickinson’s mentors have played in your growth. My Dickinson mock trial team, and my coach, guided me through the challenges presented by leading a team, and gave me a space to fully understand the importance of preparing myself, then helping others do the same.
As I go on, every social, academic and professional setting will not be so clearly divided into a team with captains. But each will require that I never lose the drive to prepare and improve constantly. Next year I will be working as a CityYear Corps member in Los Angeles, mentoring elementary and middle-school students. I look forward to playing a role in these students’ lives in a way that can be as instrumental as the mentors we have had here at Dickinson. The opportunity to show them how much they can achieve through preparation and teamwork is the only way I can imagine doing justice to the amazing mentors we’ve had here. A group of peers in any setting do not need the title of “team” to feel a level of commitment and accountability toward one another. Professor Edlin has touched my life in so many ways that I may not be able to truly grasp until years after graduation, but I feel the immediate and lasting effects of being on what may turn out to be my last real team. We were a group of talented individuals, but the day we became a team was the day our preparation included asking each other to prepare and perform in a way that did justice to all of our shared work and our shared goals.
As I go forward this team will act as my compass, always pointing me in the direction of a success that means so much more than what can be tallied in a win-or-lose column. Dickinson is a place full of role models and mentors who have given you all lessons as meaningful as the ones I received from Professor Edlin. Dickinson provided us with mentors inside and outside of the classroom who made us better thinkers and better people. My experience may not be an exact replica of yours, but I know the desire to excel, individually and collectively, is a thread that ties us all together. Dickinson as an institution brought me to the people I will always remember because of the way the mock-trial team shaped me, and because of a coach who does not just make his students better, he makes each of us the best version of ourselves.