As an English major and a writer, there’s something incredibly humbling about having the chance to sit in a room with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. Never in my life would I have thought I would listen to her speak with students about the struggles America faces every day and the importance of reviving true human connection. While absorbing her passionate thoughts during an on-campus keynote speech on Nov. 9, I wrote down several word-for-word quotes I think should be shared with all Stanford students, whether they’ve read her work or not.
1. “There is definite medicine in seeing the diversity of people everyday.”
Stanford is a microcosmic melting pot, and coming from a small town with a predominantly white population, I never take that for granted. Being surrounded by a multitude of cultures and perspectives and personalities has made my surviving hours of essay-writing more than worth it. To share and take part in unique, unfamiliar traditions year-round does make me appreciate the diverse atmosphere of which I’m proud to be a part.
2. “If it’s happening somewhere else, it’s happening to you.”
Whether I find out about them directly through the news or from a friend in passing, catastrophic and controversial events are relevant no matter where they’re happening. Stanford is a campus filled with students from around the globe, and I’m bound to know someone or of someone affected by the events. Had I been back home on the East Coast, I would’ve been extremely saddened by but detached from the recent Northern California fires; it’s eye-opening to realize how college centralizes these worldwide events.
3. “Juggling isn’t good for creativity.”
One thing I’ve learned as a Stanford student is how difficult it can be to balance academic and personal passions. Of course, there can be a blur between the two. My love of writing is integrated into my English major and non-academic projects, but sometimes it’s almost impossible to find time to cultivate my creativity. I enjoy crafting free-verse poetry, and yet I haven’t written a single poem this quarter. Instead, I’ve focused on short stories for my classes. Being busy makes the creative yearning even greater, and at some point, I must feed it.
4. “You can’t buy back your spirit.”
For most college students, economic stability often comes to mind when deciding on a major. Even though I’ve always known I’d study English, I have felt pressure to study something more technical and secure. I enjoyed biology in high school, but I could never see myself pursuing it as a career and being happy. I think it’s really important to be honest with yourself about your passions because when you’re too far into a major you hate, it can be difficult to switch and play catch up.
5. “When you sit for a while, the issues affecting you will rise.”
With a constantly buzzing atmosphere and the famous Stanford Duck Syndrome, I often feel out-of-control. I’m always thinking about the next thing on my list and rarely take time for proper self-care. Meditation is something too few students practice on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be deep or lengthy, but sitting quietly for a couple minutes can do wonders for stress. In moments of meditation, the emotional problems plaguing my mind become alleviated, and I’m left feeling refreshed and calm.
Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’ stanford.edu.