About 10 years ago, I had a friend who was an excellent, experienced pilot; in fact, he trained new pilots. After making a trip where I had opportunity to fly, I asked him about the possibility of a successful water landing… because I’m curious like that! After all, so much effort is put into giving instructions, I wondered what the likelihood really was of a successful landing on water. Not surprisingly, he indicated that the chances were very slim indeed of a successful water landing wherein passengers might escape via door slides and use of floatation devices. Fast-forward a few years to January 15, 2009 when Chesley Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles successfully landed US Air Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York. The day this news story broke, I was overwhelmed with how an otherwise “ordinary day at the office” could turn into such a consequential, life-and-death situation for these two pilots. And it made me think about the impact of people who are principled, committed, disciplined, and excellent in their work. It is a thing of beauty! So, if you haven’t seen the move Sully yet, I commend it to you. It will inspire you to consider just how much we rely on the character and excellence of strangers as we move through our daily lives.
Now, some who are reading this may quickly dismiss any correlation between that Miracle on the Hudson and your day-job as a housing professional. I beg to differ. We just opened a new 600-bed residence hall this year, and we were nail-biter close – far too close for comfort, really – in getting a temporary certificate of occupancy in time for move in… the next day! So many elements of this situation were beyond our control as housing staff, but our team did what was within their power to support an on-time, safe, and comfortable opening for 600 of our first-year students in spite of the obstacles. Watching the team in action was a thing of beauty. And, it was also encouraging to watch our first-year students ride a wave of excitement being the first class to live in this facility and overlook a number of inconveniences that in a typical situation would have been fodder for student and family complaints. However, instead of calling it a miracle – which is what it feels like – I instead say that it “defies logic”. There is something about the combination of the commitment, excellence, and hard work of our staff and the positive spirit of our entering class that created an essential synergy. It is very satisfying, but also, very inspiring.
Now, this is a tangible, physical example. We are – all of us – engaged in the educational enterprise. And, we’ve got our work cut out for us – the political and social climate in which we find ourselves today is not for the faint of heart. In many stories even of the last week, we are seeing the worst of our society – bias, discrimination, violence, hatred, and fear. We need change! To this end, as educators, we support the holistic education and development of tomorrow’s societal leaders and contributors– indeed, strangers whose character and excellence we and others will rely on as we move through our daily lives. The promise and potential of a “good day at the office” for us then is so much bigger than individual achievement – it can move people – inspire people – change people, and in some cases, even save them…really! Thanks for all you do – your work makes a difference!