Call to Conversation photo from gathering in Atherton, CA on November 8, 2017.

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in Atherton, California on November 8, 2017, to discuss leadership and character.

As our discussion evolved, overlying themes emerged:

  • Small acts of kindness can define leadership in and of themselves. Humans are often at their best when things are at their worst, and success can be defined as how you handle setbacks.
  • Leadership and character can be hindered by real and prevalent obstacles we all face, including: being self-involved and overwhelmed, living in a new life stage, and changing focus and attention following rejection.

Naturally, our conversation touched on the importance of leadership and character in the Wake Forest community. We agreed that while it’s easy to get trapped in your own community ‘bubble,’ the Wake Forest community encourages and inspires students (and their parents, for that matter) to continually strive to embody some of the following buzzwords that were repeated throughout the evening: hope, selflessness, empathy, accountability, altruism, and open-mindedness.

We also agreed that leadership and character require a “do as I do” mentality, and we talked about the importance of what New York Times columnist David Brooks calls “eulogy virtues” instead of “résumé virtues.” From a Wake Forest perspective, we discussed the application process and the balance of academics and service. One guest even questioned if service can be quantified, and asked how the competitive marketplace can shape our students’ virtues (both résumé and eulogy)?

In summary, the rich conversation ended with the sentiment that while we live in a polarized society, we see hope that this younger generation of students are more tolerant and accepting of differences (geographic, socio-economic, lifestyle, etc.) than their parents’ generations. One of the most positive takeaways is that Wake Forest is a university community that cares what you think and allows a venue for students to embrace the opportunity to seize the conversation.