Reflection on the Arrupe Leaders Summit by Liam French ’22

Who am I? Who do I aspire to be? What makes me get up in the morning and what allows me to get to sleep at night? I woke up many mornings overwhelmed by these questions. One common theme in my head was justice. I myself look around every day, as I’m sure you do, and see injustice, whether it was a man on the street with sunken sorrowful eyes asking for spare change or children at my school throwing recycling in the garbage. It was so easy to see, and I kept asking myself what can I do? Where do I start and how? How do you make a mark, a dent in a world that is so big? This was a recurring theme everyday but once I heard about the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Arrupe Leaders Summit offered by the Ignatian Solidarity Network I knew that this was meant for me. During this paper I will be talking about leadership and what it means to me and what the Arrupe Leaders Summit offers.

The first idea I will talk about is what it means to be a leader. Now this is a difficult question. This summit is actually based on leadership but that does not mean that you yourself have to be a great leader. I am not a leader or at least I thought I wasn’t. I am often overshadowed by bigger more authoritative voices giving their opinions, but I learned that there are two types of leaders: a loud leader who directly gives you their voice or a silent leader. This always confused me. How can you be a leader if you don’t have a voice like I often feel? But this may be the best leaders of all. While the loud leader leads by voice, a silent leader leads by action. Although these people may seem unimportant and quiet, they may provide the best leadership of all. I’m sure all of you have a silent leader in your life. These people you really need to watch.

The Arrupe Leaders Summit taught me three steps to leadership. Number one is respect vs fear. I have seen many great leaders in my life, whether it’s in my textbooks at school or in my everyday life. I have also seen some bad. For example, my old hockey coach would yell at me or my team for every mistake. We would be terrified to even touch the puck in fear of getting screamed at. A good leader doesn’t holler at you or simply watch you make mistakes. They guide you, tell you your mistake and suggests an alternative play. The strongest of leaders are those who know that one of those players is looking at him not as below him or above them but on an equal ground of respect. Number two is confidence. We did this game at the Summit that was about communication. There was one person who was building a structure at a desk and one person at the front of the room who would describe the structure to the person behind them. The message would then be passed down the line. I was the person communicating to the builder. But every time I gave them information, I was unsure of myself. Was it a triangle or a 3D square? I ended up stuttering and second guessing myself and the builder didn’t know what to believe. Rebuilding then building again. Which leads to my third point: strive for excellence not perfection, as Olympic figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond once said, Leaders make mistakes all the time. It is our nature. If the world was perfect, there would be no world hunger or global warming. Do you think Winston Churchill or Ghandi never made mistakes? They definitely did. The most important thing about mistakes is not letting them define who we are. Mistakes were made so we could learn from them. If we live in the shadows of past mistakes, then that is all we will see for the rest of our lives.

But there is more than just leadership learning at the Arrupe Leaders Summit. If you personally feel a connection to an issue, whether it is the well-being of this planet or any social justice issue, this is for you. The summit takes place at a retreat house in Sparkes, Maryland. If you are a shy, quiet person like me don’t fear. When you go to this retreat house, you are in a safe, comfortable environment, sharing rooms with other students. You can take comfort in knowing they share the same interests and beliefs as you do. The teachers and instructors are well experienced and kind hearted. But one of the biggest, most important messages of this lecture is that we are not alone. You may be at home thinking that in a world this big against you so small, how can you ever find justice? But when I saw all these people like me loving and caring I saw hope. Hope that the earth will have someone to speak for her. Hope women will one day have equal wages as men. Hope for a better tomorrow. You may think yourself small and worthless but when one voice becomes two, and two ,four…… hundreds, thousands, millions of voices join in unison fighting for one thing. Justice.