Tiffany’s Column: About motivation

by Tiffany Chien

“Doris Kearns Goodwin!” I exclaimed at my friend who inquired about my absence on one particular Tuesday afternoon.

“Wait, who?”

“She’s the famous historian who wrote her latest book on Abraham Lincoln!”

I, along with four other seniors, received the privilege of attending the annual YWCA lunch-in with Ms. Wheeler last month, which featured Doris Kearns Goodwin as the keynote speaker. I’ve only heard of her a couple times on PBS, but never did I imagine hearing her speak in real life. Nevertheless, I hopped in the suburban and traveled to Santa Clara Convention Center without much idea of what to expect or what she would speak about.

While broadcast and high school journalists whipped out their pads of paper and pen to report on the event, hearing her speak on stage served me just fine. Goodwin tapped into many topics that we covered in APUSH last year, even weaving in anecdotes and revealing snippets of her own childhood. Despite the speed at which she spoke about attending the Brooklyn Dodger games as a child to being President Lyndon B. Johnson’s assistant, the passion she packed into 40 minutes of speech was just captivating. “Seriously Doris, don’t make me cry now,” I thought as she finished her last sentence.

Among all her successes as a White House intern, Pulitzer-winning author, and revered presidential historian, her passion for history has budded from childhood interests, and her desire to share her life’s work with the world is nothing short of inspiring.

Goodwin’s own life story reminds me that high school is one of the few times where we can experiment with our own dreams, even if some don’t turn out to be quite what we expect. While Goodwin’s passion for history guided her to pave her own life goals and successes, the diverse interests of students today have given me reasons to ponder what we’re going to pursue in our own futures. Among the numerous commendable qualities of us Upper School students, something that particularly fascinates me is our ability to excel in a wide breadth of activities. It’s no surprise that when granted with ample opportunities, we attempt to accomplish everything in site. Audition for a school musical? Check. Write for the school paper? Double check. Join the robotics club? Sounds like a plan.

Caring passionately about our diverse interests, students here are of a special breed, capable of displaying remarkable talent everyday. However, my years of high school (and a season of college applications) have taught me that it’s not quite possible to pursue our every interest in the future, and as Goodwin’s story suggests, her admirable successes were attainable only with a lifetime of dedication and persistence. Likewise, to make the most of our experiences, we have to channel energy into a single avenue rather dabble in too many activities. For the first time in life, we will be limited in what we end up doing, as it’s not realistic to enter the adult world as the athlete, reporter, actor, and everything else that we’re a part of in high school. I suppose growing up also comes down to choosing the right path, determining what is most meaningful to us, and pursuing it in full swing for the rest of our lives.

As Doris Goodwin serves as a role model to many, I’ll always remember her as the writer, the reader, the historian, the speaker, the baseball fan, and the inspirer, whose successes reveal more about her steadfast passion for history than any fortuitous stroke of luck that helped her along the way. Hearing speakers like her, who hold on to their childhood dreams throughout her life, has motivated me to discover a similar meaning in my own life. Yet, even more, Goodwin has taught me that dreams don’t just come true overnight: it takes a lifetime of dedication and hard work to achieve those goals, and we just have to offer a little patience in return.

To me, that doesn’t seem like too shabby a deal.