President's message to students on spring break

Feb. 27, 2018

Spring Break is nearly upon us and I imagine that you are counting down the days; good for you! But finish strong — do your best in the days until March 10 so you can enjoy your break even more. You can anticipate good things, but you can’t rush them.

For example, an eager gardener might try to rush some early planting, hoping to avoid a late frost, but an experienced gardener will wait until Spring has truly arrived. Then, the gardener can have the full confidence that the warming sun and longer days will yield the intended results. I hope that Spring will also rejuvenate you and will nourish your self-confidence.

Self-confidence is a vital part of our humanity and your own development into full adulthood. I don’t mean the kind of brash confidence that says to others, “I am always right,” but rather a discerning confidence that says, “I will rely on my own opinions and judgment, thank you very much.”

We are bombarded with the opinions and judgments of others so often, especially on the internet and social media channels, that it becomes all too easy to rely on others for our own opinions. But, all too frequently, those that would have us adopt their views are operating out of their own financial or special interests.

I recently asked a group of students how many read the daily news, either a physical newspaper, or an online version. Only one out of twenty students responded affirmatively.

So, I followed up with, “How do you get the news?”

Most said they received alerts on their phone or followed friends or trend-setters on social media platforms. I then said, “That may be how you get the headlines, but what do you do to follow-up?” The consensus answer: “Usually nothing, I just don’t have the time.”

I get it, I don’t have the time either. With the seemingly endless flow of news, social media and talking heads, sifting through all the noise can become a full-time job — and we don’t have time for it.

But now, more than ever, I strongly urge you to find the extra moment to do some research on the issues that matter to you. Then, I encourage you to step back and say, “What do I really think?”

Your viewpoint, your voice, and your critical thinking are what matter most. They’re more important than the blogger’s, your neighbor’s, or even your professor’s. That’s what I want your college experience to instill in you — self-confidence in your critical thinking and your judgment; get used to relying on yourself to make sense of the really important things.

So, during Spring Break, get outside, put on your shades, take out your earbuds, and disconnect from the noise of people telling you what to think. Appreciate nature and all the lower order creatures like bugs and birds and other animals who use their reflexes to keep them safe and ensure their survival. They also relied on their parents and others to get them to the point where they can survive independently, just like you and I did.

College, however, is the time to transition from reliance on the many to reliance on yourself. You are receiving the education that is vital for that and now you need the self-confidence to know you can survive and thrive, even in our difficult and, sometimes cruel world. Not unlike the wondrous process by which a caterpillar hatches from an egg, eats leaves and grows, builds a cocoon around itself, and transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

Enjoy your Spring Break and come back stronger, and more confident. You are after all a Gamecock, and we are nothing, if not resilient and confident!