“Speech on Character” by Zarina Sanjana (Participant on Kenya Study and Leadership Program 2007)

“We are all entering the times in our lives where the things we say and do begin to matter. Each of us is beginning to mold himself or herself into the person he or she will become, and it is now that we must take the time to consider what kind of people we wish to be as adults. Everyone is born into this world with the ideal that his or her existence has a purpose. But, it is ultimately up to the individual to realize what one’s purpose is.

The desire to make a difference can be made possible through the development of one’s own character, and it is through one’s character that a person is inspired to become his or her future aspiration. This inspiration, however, may prove to be fleeting and only make its presence known through bursts of enlightenment. Such moments can be found through self-discovery and in life-changing experiences. And it may be through one of these experiences that we may encounter that one epiphany that can make everything clear.

I spent my summer on such a trip, mine entailing the construction of schools in Kenya and the general mingling with the children of the village my group stayed with. Through the service itself, I don’t think I really understood the magnitude of importance this trip would have on my life. Rather, it was upon our departure that I actually began to comprehend the purpose of the trip. The significance of my trip did not lie in the actual service that I did, but in its effect on me, and what I was going to do with this knowledge upon my reentry into western society. I came back with a wider comprehension of exactly how lucky we are over here in America. I’d always heard my parents say how lucky we were and how we live in bounty, but I never really understood what they meant. During our trip, we made a brief visit to the Mara River. And what I saw was appalling. Something as simple as clean water was a luxury they did not have. This was the same source of water that all the people and children I’d befriended drank from—and the water was brown. And this is when I realized that there’s so much room for improvement.

Effects like this are what allow us to understand what sort of people we want to be, these events simply being the catalysts to inciting our inspiration to strive for what we want to achieve. We may be unable to control our fates and destinies, but our characters will always be something we will be able to control. If we pursue our desires to make the ripples and by building each of our individual characters in the way we see fit, we can enable ourselves to cast the greatest shadows possible. The only thing it takes is the wish and effort to do so. We are the future of this world, and if we are to make the world a better place as a whole, the first changes that must be done are within ourselves.”

– Zarina Sanjana