Sunday, September 2, 2012

Life Lesson from a Dentist

At our new student convocation a few days ago, one of the speakers was an alumnus. He was introduced as a dentist. The man proudly spoke of his experiences at Niagara University, and happily mentioned that his daughter is joining Niagara as a first-year student. He said all of his friends who went to Niagara University are successful. But more important, he said, is that all of his friends who graduated from Niagara are good people. I love that he used his time to convey the importance of being a good person.

We live in a society that is obsessed with rags-to-riches stories. We put way too much emphasis on individual success stories. It seems like we're in a contest about who came from the most humble circumstances. There's so much talk about success, but I don't hear much about being a good person. Why focus on "riches" without paying attention to the character of the person?

So here is a dentist--who by most indicators would be a considered successful (no one likes to go to the dentist, but a dentist represents a successful occupation). He references "success" but does so in the context of being a good person. In doing so, he highlights the value of being a good person. The overall message is that being a good person is more important than obtaining financial success. I was struck by these wise words and report them here so I don't lose sight of his message.

No one goes to college to become unsuccessful. Who wants to accumulate student loan debt while doing all-nighters in order to be unsuccessful? Pursuing success, defined in traditional terms, is obvious. I am inspired by the dentist to move the conversation to goodness. How meaningful is success if you aren't a good person? I don't wish away all rags-to-riches stories. I do wish we would reign ourselves in and stop trying to outdo each other in terms of our humble origins. And with regard to higher education, can we agree that part of the mission should be to develop good persons? (Defining "good" is another topic for another day. Suffice to say here that we speak often at Niagara University of serving others, especially people who are poor. Our emphasis on service to others, I believe, helps develop good citizens.)