My years at Stanford were the time that I developed my sense for an individual's duty to and their presence within communities greater than themselves. Whether that community be my family, my school, my company or my country I've developed deep rooted beliefs about my responsibility to have unwavering loyalty to the few things that I dedicate myself to. Loyalty to me does not mean to follow blindly, but to care deeply, to challenge decisions and to fight for what you know is best for that organization and those who live inside of it. Inexorably connected to these beliefs is my experience with Stanford Men's Rowing. Rowing is an exercise in understanding yourself and your relationship to others. You work for thousands of hours over the course of a year with the goal of completely and utterly depleting your body of every ounce of energy it has in under six minutes; and ultimately, with the goal of doing that more efficiently than the other groups of nine people next to you, competing against you, working to accomplish the same exact goal. The simplicity of the sport means your success is driven by your group's collective work ethic and its ability to cooperate. Winning is exhilarating and losing makes you look at yourself with devastating honesty, an exercise that we seldom get the chance to do. More than anything, I'm thankful for the opportunities rowing has given me to look at the world without it being altered by the narratives we tell ourselves every day to make ourselves, our families, our schools, our companies or our countries feel better about their place in the world. This accountability, honesty and dedication to a cause was the lynchpin for my successful development during four years at Stanford. In the past, I've wondered why the rowing team had different experiences than some other members of our graduating class who did not come to a similar understanding of self and community. However, as I reflect on this experience the answer is clear, the lack of belonging to an organization that mandates extreme ownership and a passion to work for that organization rather than for yourself significantly diminishes the development of responsibility to others above responsibility to self.
- Ryan O'Rourke, Co-Captain Stanford Men's Crew, Class of 2017