By Scott Westerman
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When I first came to Michigan State University in 1973, many of my friends at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School wanted to know why. There was a Big Ten school in my back yard. Both of my parents had earned degrees there. I had been accepted for admission. Why would a potential third generation Wolverine want to come to East Lansing?
My answer? “I want to become a Spartan.”
I now realize that on the first day I set foot on the Michigan State campus I had no idea of the true meaning of that word. It is only now, with the seasoning of the years that I am just beginning to understand.
Being a Spartan isn’t a degree, a t-shirt, a title or a trophy. It’s an ethic, a lifestyle, a set of beliefs and behaviors that set us apart from the rest of the world, even as we work together in pursuit of a better life for everyone. A Spartan is something you choose to become. It is integrity, fairness, morality, honor, generosity, tenacity, kindness and assurance, elements that combine to forge an iron constitution and a compassionate heart.
Therefore, I am a Spartan.
I emerge from the most modest of backgrounds and from the most prominent families. The blood of every race, creed, color and culture flows green within my veins. My story is uniquely mine, but I work with others to become a leader, a lifesaver and a world-changer. I am a Spartan.
I read the classics, create art and study the fundamental laws of the universe. I unlock the secrets of science, create businesses, appreciate the beauty of a symphony and the power of the written word, reforming the insights from my research into ideas that can change the way of life for people I will never meet. I am a Spartan.
I may make three point shots, swim faster and run further, but I know that a broad lifelong educational experience will contribute to my inevitable success, on and off the athletic field. I am a Spartan.
I contribute at every level in every community. I feed the world, heal the sick, teach the children, and invent, improve and envision great ideas that lead to great accomplishment. I am a Spartan.
I create drugs, disciplines and doctrine that strengthen the weak, bring hope where there is despair and prolong the quality and quantity of life for the afflicted.. until I can find a cure. I am a Spartan.
I may not always score the most points. But I am never beaten. I learn from experience, get up when I stumble, and am ultimately victorious in every endeavor I undertake. I am a Spartan.
I celebrate differences, knowing that if we can discuss and debate from a place of diversity we are more likely to make the right decisions when we act as one. I am a Spartan.
I have known pain, disappointment and struggle. But I realize that only the hottest fire refines a Spartan’s resolve and it is both trial and triumph that build character. I may achieve success, but I remain humble, because I know that the greatest among us are defined, not by our position, but by our kindness, caring and humility. I am a Spartan.
I am among the first to offer a hand to those in need, regardless of who they are or where they come from. When others complain, I seek to understand. When others give up, I go the extra mile. While others may dream of the future, I am committed to creating it. I am a Spartan.
I believe that what has happened the past gives me perspective, but it is where I am going that makes all the difference. I honor those who came before, seek to learn from those who would teach me and live my life so that Spartans who have passed on will be proud. I am a Spartan.
I live the core values of the Institution that educated me and I devote my time, talent and treasure to create a margin of excellence that ensures, enriches and sustains Michigan State University for future generations. I am a Spartan.
My dedication to the greater good is unmatched. My determination is unbroken. My compassion is legendary. And the common connection I share my half million fellow Spartans sustains and strengthens me in everything I do.
And when my earthly tale is told and I look down from the precipice of the ages, other Spartans will stand beside me, just as every Spartan, past, present and future will stand beside you. We will pick you up when you stumble, guide you in the direction of goodness and celebrate the day when you to can look to the heavens and truly declare: “I am a Spartan.”
Others may associate these things with their university, their faith or their chosen profession. That’s ok. Those who live the Spartan ethic, though they may never set foot on the Michigan State University campus, are part of the Spartan spirit. Even though the may never realize it.
If you would endeavor to incorporate these beliefs and behaviors into your life, I promise you that you will find fulfillment in whatever you may decide to do. And whoever you become, there will be a quiet voice within you that will, in it’s own unique language someday whisper…
“I am a Spartan.”
Have a great week!
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