Why Not Here? Why Not Now?
These were the questions asked by newly minted college president Charles Eliot.
He was challenging the essence of his institution and calling for sweeping reforms that would radicalize the trajectory of their college.
The year was 1869 and Harvard College was a backwater regional higher learning education institution. It had no recognition beyond New England and was considered simply a finishing school for the elite. It granted graduates at the time, a paper of promotion, that was basically meaningless.
President Eliot evangelized a vision that was simply overwhelming in the context of the time. He described the university as an institution of unifying purpose regardless of socioeconomic background, regardless to origin of birth, city or rural, North or South, East or West, and no regard for specific religious denomination.
We must note that his vision still lacked the fullness to welcome women or racial diversity and will be a struggle for institutions of higher learning even into our modern day. Yet, his vision was still in stark contrast and tone to only four years prior when the country was bitterly divided by the Civil War.
Through Eliot’s vision he laid the foundation for the explosive growth of Harvard College. Today, Harvard is ubiquitous with academic excellence and cutting edge research/innovation. This can be traced in no small part to Eliot’s leadership and passionate vision during that crucial time.
It started with the simple, yet inspiring questions:
Why Not Here?
Why Not Now?
These questions carry weight for us in leadership roles today. No matter our organizations, no matter who we are, where we are…we must challenge ourselves in rising to the occasion of these fleeting moments.
Look at the challenges facing our communities…who will solve them…the next generation, right?
I used to say that with great urgency…now I believe I was wrong. It is too convenient to pass the buck to the next generation. We are in this together. Both young and old. The generation of now and the generation of yet born. No one generation should bear the weight of historic responsibility.
Together we must ask those powerful questions:
WHY NOT HERE?
WHY NOT NOW?
Before the start of our new school year I challenge each of us to take a moment and reflect on the potential that could be sparked by asking those two simple questions. As I prepare in two weeks for my own personal annual retreat, these will be the questions of purpose I have the opportunity to mull over!
Housekeeping Blogging Note:
Dear fellow learners!
It is amazing to think that our journey together started only in December 2017. Thank you to all those who have read and followed this blog!
The next post will be the 50th of this blog and I have a special announcement that will be unveiled at that time. I expect the post to drop sometime early this weekend.
Again, I’m humbled beyond measure at the warmth and feedback you as readers provide. I look forward to continuing to grow with you in this endless learning adventure!