DCSI-LCE Week 1: I Can’t Tell Where the Journey Will End, But I Know Where to Start

This past Wednesday, Professor Stelljes asked all of us within the Leadership and Community Engagement Institute (LCE) of William & Mary’s D.C Summer Institute (DCSI) to describe our experience so far in 2 words or less. I described my experience up to that point in just one word,”AHHHHHHH!”, which is a word that still remains accurately reflective of my experience at this very moment now.

For the last seven days the nineteen other LCE Fellows and I have been instructed in various theoretical frameworks as to what leadership and community engagement both are. In addition, we have also had absolutely breathtaking opportunities to not only tour sites in D.C such as the F.B.I, House and Senate Office Buildings, The Aspen Institute, and various different non-profit organizations, but to also have meaningful interactions with some of the great individuals who work there. All of this while thirteen of us LCE fellows (including myself) have gotten to bond even closer via living together in the Buchanan apartment building in Arlington, Virginia.

For me, this past week has meant more than just collecting business cards and reveling in the fact that I met the Director of the F.B.I and the Chiefs of Staff for Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (among others). For me, this week has given me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, hear, touch, and feel leadership in a way I never had before, and I have been equally if not more inspired by the young William & Mary alumni and other leaders in the non-profit sector whom we have had the pleasure to interact with.

There are a few quotes that I would like to share from this past week that I feel are both particularly memorable and encapsulate major themes within leadership that I have been able to take away:

“Stay focused on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and above all else wake up every morning and enjoy what you do. Life is too busy for you to let opportunities for enjoyment to pass you by. You don’t necessarily have to stop and smell the roses, but you at least have to notice the flowerbed that’s there.” -Jesse Ferguson, Deputy Executive Director of Communications, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

“The 2nd person who steps out onto the dance floor is as much if not more of a leader than the 1st person.” – Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship

“Embrace the enormous power of silence.” – Michael Powell, President of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association

“Trust is more important than talent.” – John Burnham, Captain, United States Navy SEALs.

I think that a lot of times we expect all leaders to fit a profile of headstrong, highly-driven, go-getter individuals who take decisive action and inspire others with their charisma and guile, and while that is not an incorrect profile of leadership, it is also not the only profile of leadership by any means. I do believe that, as cliché as it may be, what distinguishes leaders is their ability to take genuine pride in the work that they do no matter what obstacles they may face. One of the most inspirational things that I heard this week was when I asked Jesse Ferguson how he was able to will himself through his battle with cancer, and he simply replied “because I loved my work so much.”  I also believe that what distinguishes leaders is their ability to have trust in their coworkers, and their ability to know that it is necessary to follow the guidance of and listen to others as opposed to being “my way or the highway” 100% of the time.

So therefore, this summer, as much as I know that I will blog about my experiences to the world and share hundreds of pictures of my experiences on every social media outlet that I possibly can, I also know that I will take every opportunity that I possibly can to quietly, humbly, and meaningfully reflect on my own life and on my philosophy of leadership. And while I will use the digital technology I have at my disposal to capture memories that I hope will last a lifetime, I will also try to internalize every single opportunity that this Institute and the Greater Metropolitan D.C area provides me on my own, without the use of that technology. After all, I feel like I have come to learn that is (at least in part) what leadership is all about.

I hope everyone enjoyed reading and stay tuned for next week’s blog! =D

From D.C With Love,


Categories: Community Engagement & Service, Student Blogs, Student Leadership Development, W&M in Washington

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