View from the Loge: April 16

April 16, 2024

View from the Loge

April 16, 2024

Brent Smith, Dean of the School of Communication at Emerson College (my alma mater), recently asked students, “Who do you surround yourself with who inspires you?” In an email to students, he wrote:

We are all that we surround ourselves with…we invite you to ask yourself:

Who do you surround yourself with?

Who do you surround yourself with that inspires you?

Who do you surround yourself with that inspires your work?

Who do you surround yourself with that inspires your purpose?

I’ve been sitting with this email for several days. It seemed an obvious hook for this week’s missive. But I have found myself unexpectedly snagged on the hook.

I am surrounded by remarkable people from whom I try to learn, and whose examples I try to follow. You have great professors whose ideas I borrow, and whose commitment I try to match. Over the years I have been lucky to make friends who are also mentors, people whose actions remind me how to be in the world. And I have been honored to work for public servants who have taught me everything from how to behave in a meeting, to how to advance ideas in which I believe.

But that’s largely passive. I have the friends I have, work with the people I work with, and teach the students who register for my classes. It isn’t seeking, it’s receiving. SMPA is full of terrific people, and I have some great and inspiring friends. But my orbit has become largely stable.

Dean Smith’s question is a reminder to seek people who inspire me. To make time for those from whom I learn, who make me a better person simply by being around them. It is also a reminder to keep meeting people, to keep looking for ideas, and to keep seeking inspiration. 

I encourage you to spend time with Dean Smith’s questions as well. There are a lot of remarkable people in SMPA, at GW and in DC. How do they inspire you?

If we are who we surround ourselves with, we should pay close attention to who those people are. We should look for and nurture those relationships. We should also pay attention to how we can inspire those around us.