Long ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Be ye an opener of doors, for those who follow after ye.”
In my life, many doors have opened. Throughout my journey in exploration, in learning, in life, many doors were opened for me, and there were other doors I opened myself.
Today, I meet a great number of fellow travelers who have lost that Bright Future vision, yet every day, you and I work to live our values: respect, love, inclusion, diversity, listening and sharing; and all the while, new opportunities, new questions, and new doors open. I find great excitement opening doors, and observing our younger generations welcoming the journey as we move beyond the walls, beyond the status-quo. When I say, “To serve is to live,” our Millennials say, “Of course!”
I have been fortunate enough to work with leaders from the corporate, governmental and social sectors who were inspired by this challenge. One of the most valuable ways we work to open the doors for others is through the Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Eight years ago, we asked ourselves what would happen if, every year, 25 college students were chosen from all over our country and 25 from all over the world to gather at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Frances has inspired my leadership path for almost two decades since my days as a student at our shared alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. Her grace and wisdom gave me the courage to pursue my dreams at work and in life. I’m forever grateful for all the time she has spent with me and the many, many doors she has opened.” – Joan Snyder Kuhl, board member, Frances Hesselbein Institute and co-author with Frances Hesselbein of Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Things
Then, from remarkable, distinguished leaders in all three sectors, mentors would be chosen, one for every four or five students, and these student-mentor teams would come to the University for four days, live together, work together, dream together, engage in leadership dialogue, and provide community service that would change their and our lives.
Because of the students’ experiences at the Leadership Summit, or through the doors that were opened to them, they shared intentions on the work they would do, in turn opening doors for others.
“I want to make the political system of my country more transparent and democratic and to improve the HDI [human development index] of my country, as India is 135th in the world.” – 2016 student from India
“I want to share the inspiration I have received to help people realize that what matters is not where you are coming from, but how high your dreams can reach. I want to lead by example and prove that the best way to predict the future is to create it.” – 2016 student from Poland
“I will use this experience to add a component of leadership to the curriculum at the science park I work in as a mentor for children, our future leaders.” – 2016 student from Ecuador
At the Hesselbein Academy, our mission is to inspire, develop, and reward accomplished student leaders to meet the challenges of tomorrow, allowing us to embody Ralph Waldo Emerson’s important words regarding opening doors for others.
For eight years, our partnership with students, faculty, mentors, colleges and universities from all over the world has supported this global initiative, has changed lives, and has moved us beyond the old walls into that Bright Future that is our new reality.
Frances Hesselbein, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, is the president and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and editor-in-chief of the award-winning quarterly journal, Leader to Leader, as well as co-editor of 27 books translated into 29 languages. She was the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1976 to 1990. @ToServeIsToLive
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