At the Leadership Banquet last Thursday, April 14th, the pamphlets handed out were inscribed with an inspirational quote from President Barack Obama: “We are the change we seek. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Two and a half years ago, I was an intimidated transfer student with absolutely no journalism background. I walked into the North Wind office afraid that I would be terrible and that I wouldn’t be able to do the job. I’d just transferred from a community college where I spent three years unsure of what to do with my life. I was tired of things happening to me and finally wanted to be the one to make things happen.
My first story was a 200 word brief about a homeless shelter. Even though the interview was as simple as them telling me about their organization and me writing it down, I was shaking the entire time, sweating bullets, worried I was going to miss something. That first time, seeing my words in print was exhilarating. I’d made a change.
Today, I’m the Opinion Editor. This is the last issue of The North Wind in which I can say that. It’s been a hell of a ride. For the past year, I’ve written a column every week, doing my best to get my voice heard and to inform students and the community of issues I care about deeply. In the process, I’ve read more Michigan legislation than I care to admit. I also once spent two days studying every document on the Internet surrounding Kennecott and Eagle Rock. When Third Eye Blind came to campus, my favorite band since I was 11, I got the opportunity to interview drummer Brad Hargraves.
I don’t say this very often, but Obama’s right. We are the change we seek. Little Northern Michigan University, a campus with just under 10,000 students in a community of 20,000, tucked away in the Upper Peninsula, provides us with great opportunities. It isn’t every day the President comes to you. Just as rarely, great opportunities fall into your lap.
It wasn’t too long ago that Obama was here on campus and many were upset with the administration’s decision to allow only the loosely defined “student leaders” see him speak. And now, at a banquet in their honor, there was a quote from the president himself, a gentle reminder to them all that they were the lucky few chosen to see him.
While I wasn’t chosen and I was only at the banquet because of a guest invitation (and therefore, I suppose, not technically a “student leader”), I do have fond memories of the day President Barack Obama came to campus. The morning of his arrival, I was standing in the parking lot of Jeffrey’s Restaurant with about 30 or so other people, eagerly waiting for the President’s motorcade to drive by. I was there to take pictures for the North Wind, though I haven’t ever taken a photography class at NMU, let alone taken a picture professionally. Our real photographers, however, were otherwise engaged, covering the president’s visit from a variety of different locations.
After twenty minutes in the bitter cold of February in the Upper Peninsula, the motorcade finally came by. When it finally did, I realized I was experiencing something remarkable. I can’t say I saw Obama give a speech, the same speech which was broadcast over the internet and later shown in clips on 24-hour-news networks.
But I can say I was one of the few who stood in the freezing cold and cheered as the president’s motorcade came by. How many people can say they’ve done that?
Since I started working for The North Wind, I’ve stayed up late many nights working on news stories or columns when I should have been sleeping. I’ve ignored my studies to pursue a lead. I’ve met amazing people just as nuts as I am about pursuing the story.
The day of the shooting threat (affectionately called “Threat Day” around our office), while many people were safe in their dorms rooms or apartment buildings awaiting news of what was happening, we were out trying to get the story. I was driving around campus with Managing Editor Scott Viau, risking our own safety for the good of the newspaper. Though there wasn’t a shooter after all, we didn’t know that. We were out there. And it was an amazing experience.
The North Wind and NMU have provided me with opportunities I just didn’t know were possible. So if you were one of those people upset when the university chose to let only “student leaders” to see the president, then start leading. We can be the change we seek. All it takes is pushing past your nerves and walking through a door. Maybe for you it’s the door to the North Wind office. Maybe it’s some other door. Wherever it is, just make it happen.
And if you do, someday you can look around and say you didn’t just sit and let things happen to you. You can say you were a part of something remarkable.
You can tell people that you wouldn’t have the last few years of your college life any other way. I know I wouldn’t.