Menelik Washington ’09
Non Sibi Luncheon
May 2, 2009
One of the greatest experiences in my life was my trip to Japan last summer. There, I was exposed to a way of living that I did not know existed. Seeing such a precise subway system, major city streets without litter, and small children traveling to and from school alone—without worry—changed how I view the world. It expanded my world.
Had it not been for Andover, my Japanese teacher, and my family, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take that trip and to pursue foreign languages as intensely. Here, I have taken four years of Spanish, three years of Japanese, and a term of Arabic. Before entering Andover, I had never thought of studying a language other than Spanish. The only foreign language classes that were offered at the New York high school that I would have attended were Spanish and French. Immersing myself in foreign languages awakened a passion I didn’t know I had. Next year, as one of the lucky few at Harvard, I plan to minor in Japanese.
As I embark on a world beyond Andover, I begin to truly reflect on how I have changed since junior year, my experiences here, and the classes and discussions that I have been a part of. The greatest aspect of my time here has been the exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking that I didn’t previously realize were important. Living in various large dorms has allowed me to speak to people who don’t see the world with eyes similar to my own.
My junior year, late on a Saturday night in Rockwell, we spoke about the nature of perfection. I think that it truly does exist, manifested in our relationships with other people. A friend of mine believes that perfection is something that can be attained through individual efforts, and another believes that it must be discovered, not created by the efforts of man. It was something I hadn’t previously thought about, but without input from these friends, I probably wouldn’t have considered any other possibilities about perfection.
I thank Andover for providing me with the opportunity to take part in these discussions, both in and out of the classroom. In fact, throughout my time here, I constantly have been exposed to knowledge. Knowledge meaning both fact and opinion, allowing me to reflect on my own ignorance at times, and to show other people a new way of thinking at times. By allowing each of us to discover instead of memorize facts, we are able to dissect and digest the information we receive. This gives us the opportunity to use the knowledge we have learned.
Since coming here I have learned that I don’t want to limit myself to the confines of just New York City, which at one point I believed was a goal of mine. But I would love to see the world, and to interact with as many people as possible. Andover has led me to this discovery.
I always have wanted to own a business. Running a million dollar corporation seems like it would be nice. But after having been a part of this community, I know that cannot be my only goal. I could own that corporation, but may feel empty. Yes, I want personal success. Now, though, I also want success for others. The constant group activity, be it volleyball practice, dorm support for the lacrosse team, a café discussion, or studying for a history final, has made me realize that I have a responsibility to others. I have become attached to this place, and these people, and I hunger to expand further. I no longer wish to be on top of the world. Instead, I wish that the world would open itself to me, and that I should be prepared to reciprocate the action.
During these past four years, I have learned to appreciate learning. I have learned to appreciate help, both for myself and as something I should try to provide for others. I have learned more about myself due to exposure to ideas that had previously been out of my daily routine. But most importantly, I have learned to appreciate the changes that come from seeing what the world has to offer. Experiencing everything now fascinates me, and though I entered as a very goal-oriented young student, I see myself in 10 years chasing not some dream, but rather happiness through both meeting and helping people.
I understand that there is more to life than my success. There is a greater good, and being a part of Andover has helped me to actually experience that rather than just learn about it. Therein lies all the difference, and I thank the Academy for helping me to realize both who I would like to become, and what is important in my life.