The Journey Begins...

            In the 2013 film “Stand Up Guys”, Al Pacino reflects on the human experience by noting, “[t]hey say we die twice — once when the last breath leaves our body and once when the last person we know says our name.” Indeed, the great poet Dante Alighieri—who literally wrote the book on going to Hell and back—believed that a certain degree of immortality was maintained through one’s reputation in the mortal world. As Dan Brown wraps it up,

“so long as they speak your name, you shall never die.”

            As human beings, there is perhaps no thought more alluring than to wonder what place we currently (and will) hold in the hearts and minds of others. As a student of criminal justice, I can tell you that a great deal has already been written on the importance of the bonds we form with the individuals and communities around us. As social creatures, values such as acceptance and belonging are absolutely vital to us. And yet, our need to be an impactful part of the lives of the people we interact with extends far beyond the present.

Our time, after all, is short; lifetimes are spent in the hopes of building something grand enough to outlast us.

            We all have a story to tell, as well as a desire to have it shared. Growing up, this desire manifested itself into a drive to overcome my own fears of public speaking and carve out a collegiate career in student governance. From this vantage point, I spent four years working with young leaders to turn their passions and interests into something impactful. I’ve seen how wonderfully influential a voice can be when its shared with its intended audience, and I’ve witnessed first-hand just how fiercely some will fight when they believe it’s been taken from them.

            No matter what, the untamable urge to make a mark, in one form or another, always fights its way to the surface. Like any building flame, this devotion can be an engine for creation or destruction. Understanding how to properly channel this energy is an important facet of individual growth and development. Throughout my career, from the classroom politics of student governance to the real world responsibilities of a local Board of Education, I’ve devoted my time to helping others shape their voices and share these stories.

            Indeed, they are needed now more so than ever.

           In the midst of an election cycle known more for its vitriol and divisiveness, rather than its leadership, young adults are left to truly wonder whether or not their voices have any meaning left at all. That’s why we're launching Memoirs of a Student Leader in this fashion. As a platform dedicated to sharing the stories, trials, and triumphs of our young leaders, we hope that our readers will see that an individual’s voice can be found well beyond their local polling station. There are a number of ways to make your mark within a community, and not all of them are tied to politics. These are the life lessons of individuals who have stood and stumbled from the same walks of life as you. If we can learn together, then surely we can triumph together.

I look forward to seeing what mark you will make on this great, big world of ours.

-Michael D. Johnson