Words of Devotion

Posted on June 1, 2012 by Anne Merrick

At the beginning of my first long weekend at @erwwpr, I decided I would take the weekend off from social media, email and pretty much everything outside of actual human contact. Nothing against social media, but as it becomes an increasingly important part of my job, I like to maintain a balance between the real and evaluations of the real. I decided it was time for a little break. Ironically, I left my phone at the first bar I went to on Friday night, so I ended up not having a choice in the matter.

Normally over such a holiday weekend, I would have been focused on typical summer kickoff behavior. But thanks to a moving article by Marian Salzman on the Huffington Post about Memorial Day, what was on my mind all weekend was one of my absolute nearest and dearest friends.

My friend (who by request shall remain nameless) graduated from the University of Dayton this spring and simultaneously from the ROTC program (first in her class, I might proudly add). She received placement orders and found out her deployment information: Afghanistan in March. As everyone who was home for the weekend basked in the sun and hit the town, my friend worked out, brushed up on the history of military intelligence and prepared to take a computer science class all summer.

Memorial Day has never really meant more to me than a day off from school and extra family time. But this year, in the 90-degree heat and against the backdrop of freshly graduated friends, I finally began to understand the sentiment of the holiday and all the ways that the day fails to capture and acknowledge the incomprehensible sacrifice that soldiers and their families have given.

To best describe what I mean is to explain my friend, who is a truly wonderful person. She is set apart—not by her drive, ambition or skill, but by her mentality. Those who contribute to something truly special often share her mentality, an overwhelming devotion to the success of the group or the effort, as opposed to that of personal and individual success.

And honestly, it’s the driving force behind the One Young World (OYW) summit.

OYW delegates, all highly accomplished individuals, aren’t there for a line to add to a résumé or to build personal networks. They are there because, like my friend, they want to understand what is necessary for the success and well-being of their respective countries and groups, and they want to be the people to execute those ideas.

Both OYW delegates and military veterans realize that despite often being disinclined to be a leader, they recognize that this quality is the reason they must continue. These people not only understand the idea of leadership in a democracy, but they also actively live it every day. As we prepare for the One Young World summit, we must recognize that it is a chance to address important issues without having to sacrifice people’s lives. OYW is a chance for our young leaders to come together and collectively agree that our institutions and values hang on by fragile threads, while trying to correct and stabilize them.

And so, especially this weekend, but hopefully more frequently in our lives, we can dedicate our barbecues, fireworks, long morning runs, free and lively debates, and apple pies to the people who understand the fragility of the world’s institutions and values and literally give their lives to protect and preserve them.

[photo: Stock Exchange]

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