Years of Gratitude in One Minute

I recently attended my college reunion at Amherst.  Among the events was an invitation for alumni to speak about something related to the college that they were particularly grateful for––an event, a relationship, a learning that has been a big part of their life since––and (at a school where, customarily, brevity is not a virtue) to do so in one minute.

Here’s what I said:

September 1971.  The president’s reception for incoming freshman.  I was 27, the oldest freshman Amherst had ever admitted, I was told.  And, very likely, the only freshman to have graduated next-to-last in his high school class.

While I evidently did enough interesting stuff in my life to get admitted, apprehension remained.  Could I actually thrive here?

When I introduced myself to president Bill Ward, he said, “Oh, you’re the old guy.”  And then he said the most beautiful thing:  “Welcome.  You’re where you belong.  Enjoy yourself.”

Today, I help people play with provocative questions.  For instance: What should the sign say that hangs over the entrance to your organization, the sign you want every colleague to see every day?

If I were asked to answer that question for Amherst, I’d bow to Bill Ward and say: “Welcome.  You’re where you belong.  Enjoy yourself.”


  1. Wayne Warner said:
    You have such a great way with words and can say so much – with so few of them. Wayne Warner

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth