Life Lessons From the Red Cedar

By Scott Westerman
Of all the natural wonders that caress our beautiful campus, the Red Cedar River is, perhaps, most symbolic.

Its waters  flow inexorably toward the west, reminding us that we must continuously expand our own horizons of thought and explore new vistas beyond our comfort zones. It is a combination of gently undulating currents and explosive rapids, much like the course of our own adventures, which inevitably reveal both calm and calamity.

The Red Cedar, in its time, has been both abused and renewed. Past pollution is still evident; even as we can once again safely probe its depths for fish and dangle our toes in its often-icy embrace.

It sometimes presses beyond its boundaries. Many of us remember how it flooded parts of campus, reminding us that paradigms surrounding ourselves create limitations that are meant to be broken.

The Red Cedar is beautiful in every season, reflecting the deep greens of summer, the fiery colors of fall and the dancing diamonds of a noontime sun. Its sights and sounds attract us in moments when our souls need refreshment. It gives us constant comfort that it will always be at the center of our campus existence, a spiritual place to be studied and admired with a mindfulness that defines every true Spartan’s being.

And what is the fundamental component that makes our beloved Red Cedar the magical thing that it is? Water. A simple combination of two biological elements that are essential to our very existence.

Whenever I have the privilege of considering the Red Cedar, I think about the water that is its essence. From the beginning, water has been a central point of study at Michigan State. We’ve never forgotten its importance. We try to treat it with endless fascination and deep respect. And we work very hard to make certain that there is enough of it for all on the planet who need it.

And so it is with all the elements that make up this ever evolving experiment that is higher education. Transformational knowledge; life-changing experiences; celebrations of our rich diversity of culture, ideas and opportunity; and the promotion of universal understanding and peace.

Now as ever, we recommit ourselves to work toward the day when there are enough of these things for everyone. And like the relentless Red Cedar, we will never give up—until we succeed.