I can't say for sure why I remember this story. I can't tell you what the speakers said at any of my graduations, or any graduation I have ever attended. As a teacher and competitive speech coach, I have heard a lot of speeches and most of them didn't stick. This one did, though, and I never get tired of thinking about it.
I was being inducted into the leadership honor society Omicron Delta
Kappa while in college. The speaker was one of my favorite college
professors and she launched into a tale about ancient Greek thinker
Archimedes. Everyone knows the one where he ran naked through the town
screaming "Eureka," but this was not that tale. In this one, a ship
needs to be launched off the shore and every man in Syracuse comes to
push, but the boat won't budge. Along comes Archimedes, premier science
dork of his day, with another statement now famously attributed to
him: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it,
and I shall move the world." Of course, no one believed him, so he
rigged up the lever and the fulcrum and launched the ship to prove his
Dr. Rea went on to talk about how the story was relevant to our
honor society induction. Here we were, the campus leaders, being
recognized for accomplishments and she indicated that it was time to
start thinking about the way we would lead. What were our levers?
Where would we stand? How could we change the world? I remember
feeling simultaneously inspired to run out and change the world and also
in awe of what a tremendous speaker she was.
I can't say for sure why I remember this story. Maybe it was the
science? Maybe it was her delivery? Maybe it was my admiration for her
as a teacher and role model? Whatever it was, I think about the story a
lot, especially when I have a big obstacle to move or a project to
launch. When faced with a challenge, we have to find the lever and the
place to stand. I am going to record my attempts here.