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 point.
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.