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The Answer Is The Legacy

November 10, 2013

In 1874, a group of five women got together and made a decision that would change the world:  They founded Sigma Kappa.  I am grateful for the role that Sigma Kappa has played in my life as a young woman and believe it is largely responsible for teaching me the leadership skills I’ve learned.  Today, it’s an honor to be the keynote speaker at the Southern California Sigma Kappa Founder’s Day Celebration.  The following is the text of my speech.

Since the dawn of mankind, the most-asked question whispered around the world, has been, “Why?”

“Why was I born?”

The question of why we were born and what we were put on this Earth to do is at the bane of mankind’s existence.  Each of us at some point has questioned the reason for our existence.  We find answers in religion.  We find answers in spiritual gurus.  We find answers in yoga retreats and meditation vacations to India.

Ultimately, though, the answer to, “Why was I born?” lies in the answer to another question.  That question is, “What is my legacy?”

We are here today, because on November 9, 1874, a group of five women–Elizabeth, Mary, Ida, Francis and Louise–sought to answer that question and define their legacy.

The legacy of these five women was built upon their doing two things:  Surveying the landscape of their community and surveying the landscape of their hearts.

We sit in this room today, as women who all received or are receiving the gift of a college education.  Today, the number of females pursuing a college degree exceeds the number of males doing so.  For Mary Caffrey Low, however, the gender make-up of her college campus could not be more distinct.

Mary entered ColbyCollege in 1871.  It wasn’t until 1873, when another female joined her as a student on campus.  In fact, the female population of ColbyCollege boomed in 1873, as four new women–Elizabeth, Ida, Francis and Louise–all began their college education that year.

As the five women oftentimes found themselves together, they began surveying the landscape of their community.  They quickly realized, that although they had been given the opportunity to attend college, their opportunity differed from that of their male classmates.  The women faced insults from male classmates and teachers.  They were not given the same opportunity to perform in the classroom as their male counterparts.  They were held back from participating in the bulk of the collegiate experience, as they were often precluded from engaging in student organizations.

The survey of ColbyCollege’s landscape was the spark that ignited the idea of creating an organization on campus aimed at addressing the negative issues the women faced.  However, that idea did not birth Sigma Kappa until the five young women examined the landscape of their hearts.

Those five young hearts were joyful hearts.  They were filled with love and friendship and a belief in serving others.  They were hearts captivated with the idea that a woman could grow up to become anything she wished to be and that in doing so, she could serve others.

The landscape of these women’s hearts, is what would become not only their legacy, but our beloved Sigma Kappa.  From the hearts of Mary, Elizabeth, Francis, Ida and Louise, was born an organization that to date, has captivated the hearts of more than 152,000 women worldwide.  From the hearts of five young women, a legacy woven into the fabric of all our lives was born.  That legacy is Sigma Kappa.

Because we all seek to answer the question of, “Why am I on this planet?” we all seek to identify what our legacy is.  How do you do that, though?  The process of defining what your legacy is, is the same in 2013 as it was in 1874:  You must examine the landscape of your community and the landscape of your heart.

What does it mean to examine the landscape of your community?  Examining the landscape of your community involves taking off the blinders that normally bind you, to look at the community in which your life unfolds.  When the blinders come off, you must look at the needs of the community you love.

What is your community?  Is your community your school?  Is it your chapter?  Is it your new member class?  Is your community your job?  Is it your child’s school?  Is it the people who live under your roof?

When you define who makes up your community, you can begin identifying the needs of those people.  Those needs can span any number of issues.  Some issues may be small and some may be monumental.  The size of the issue, however, is not important.  If issues worth addressing exist in your community, your legacy is made by setting out to address them.

After identifying the needs that make up the landscape of your community, it is critical to analyze the landscape of your heart.  This step is critical, because it is what is in our hearts that allows us to address particular needs in our communities.

The reason why there are over 6 billion people on this planet, is that each of us brings unique abilities and beliefs to the table.  The combination of these unique abilities and beliefs are written on our hearts.  Sometimes they’re called passions.  Other times they’re called dreams.  I like to think of these unique abilities and beliefs as the things that keep me up at night wondering what I will do next with my life.

Because each of us has unique abilities and beliefs, and hence, a unique story written on our heart, we are not made to address every issue that faces our community.  If you were capable of addressing every issue your community needs, you would be the only person who lived on this planet.  Instead, each of us was created to address the particular issues that match the abilities and beliefs that are melted into the landscape of our hearts.

The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind.  I’ve traveled enough this year that I’ve racked up three free airline tickets from the frequent flier miles I’ve accumulated.  I’ve been to the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game.  I’ve stood on the sidelines at Cowboys Stadium and the NBA Finals.  I’ve interviewed the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Jim Brown, John Cena, Stephen Curry and Barry Sanders.  I’ve been on national radio broadcasts and made appearances on national television.  And the only reason I’ve been able to do any of this, is because in 2011, I looked at the landscape of my community and got in touch with the landscape of my heart.

In early 2011, I was working a job that although I was grateful for, I was not made for.  My unhappiness at work led me to seek something that would provide an outlet for channeling happiness throughout the day.  For me, that outlet was sports.

Since I was a young child, sports have fascinated with me.  As the only child of a sports enthused father, I spent a large amount of time as a child watching games and learning the intricacies that made them interesting.  As I grew up, I could recite statistics, the names of whole rosters and analyze sports in a way that not many other young women were doing.

In 2011, when I needed a reprieve from my law firm job, I would poke around on various sports news websites.  As I did, I quickly realized that there were few journalists who wrote about sports in a positive manner.  Lost in the stories of athletes who went broke, used banned drugs, got pulled over for DUIs and cheated on their wives, were the stories of athletes doing good things in their communities that I knew existed.

As I examined the landscape of a community I loved–the sports community–I was forced to analyze the landscape of my heart.  That landscape is one that believes in the innate goodness of mankind.  It is a landscape filled with belief that, although we all make mistakes, our good outweighs the bad.  It’s a landscape that holds firmly to the belief that positivity will get you further than negativity every time.

When I began looking at the landscape of my heart, a dream that had been pushed down for too long because of a feeling that it was impractical, began coming to the surface.  What if I could become a sports journalist?  What if I could tell the world about sports in a way that was positive?  What if that could become my legacy?

With an idea of what I wanted my legacy to become, I had to take an honest look at the unique abilities and beliefs I held.  From an ability perspective, I had recently graduated from law school and also held a B.S. in economics.  This educational background, I believed, would allow me to analyze sports from a perspective few others could.  I also had a passion for writing and have been told by numerous people that I can tell a good story.

In turn, the unique beliefs I held in the goodness of man and that positivity outweighs negativity meant that I would use my analytical and writing abilities to tell the story of sports in a way that celebrated it.

On July 1, 2011, I woke up and told my roommate that I was creating a website.  After hours of mulling over names in my head and tinkering around trying to figure out how to build a website, was born.  Creating changed my life.  Yes, it gave me later opportunities to write for and The Huffington Post and become a professor at the University of Miami.  However, it changed my life, because it became my legacy.

Each of us has a community.  Each of us has a heart.  Each of us has a legacy.

The world needs to stop asking, “Why?”  We know why we are here.

The question for some of us now, though, is “What?”  “What is my legacy?”  What are the needs of your community that you can address like nobody else?  What do those desires on your heart motivate you to do like nobody else?

Some of us have answered the question of what our legacy is.  The question for us then become, “When?” and “How?”  When will you begin creating your legacy?  If you haven’t begun creating it, will you realize today that the time to start is now?  If you believe your legacy is complete, why are you still on this planet?  Is it because there is more to the story of your legacy?

After answering those questions, how are you going to bring your legacy to life?  How are the abilities and beliefs written on the landscape of your heart perfectly suited to address the needs faced in the landscape of your community?

Each of us was put on this planet for a reason.  And that reason was to build a legacy.  The time is now.  And I cannot wait to see how you all do it.

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