One of the core values of Villanova, as an Augustinian university founded on the teachings of St. Augustine, is that student and faculty learn from each other. As you imagine yourself as a member of the Villanova community, what is one lesson that you have learned in your life that you will want to share with others?
I am not kidding when I say that we barely climbed up the mountain on our all-school hiking day. The heaviness of my backpack was basically nothing in comparison to my responsibility that I had to carry on my shoulders: Pit, Mi, Anne, and Bach—the four members of my Vietnamese crew.
Before our great adventure, we had vowed to summit Mount Nebo altogether as one team and perhaps, with joy and pride, to put our national flag there, as Mister Neil Armstrong did when he first set foot on the moon. But there we were, after five hours, not even at the midway of the climb. My crew members were all new to hiking, and after every ten minutes struggling up the steep slope covered by slippery rocks and mud, we had to rest.
Sometimes I looked at Mount Nebo, so far away from my current position, with the desire to stand on its peak as I did last year by myself. But who was I then? I was a captain, a leader, someone who would never leave his crew to pursuit such a selfish ambition. So I remained with my team and began to form some new habits, such as turning my head back every two minutes to check how everyone was doing. Often, I would rotate my position, from up front to the very end, to pick up the pace of the whole group, or to encourage Pit to take a cross the narrow path next to a chasm (he is acrophobic).
But I did not complete my duty as the leader, because when we all had to return to the base, I decided to run down the mountain on my own. The way my legs went dashing down the hill, my skin shattered through the cool air, my eyes focused only on my own way captivated my mind entirely. So I kept running to satisfy only myself until I realized that I had forgotten my teammates. What did matter most, however, was that I had already reached the bottom.
Nerves wracked my head and I imagined the worst of what could have happened to my friends. Finally, after two hours, they got back safely. Looking at the dirt on their paints and wounds on their arms and faces, I wished I had not left my crew. Then Pit came to me and said in a very caring voice: “Are you alright? We were all worried about you.”
From this very brief experience, I learned the most important lesson about becoming a true leader. No matter how good I think I may be, once I am responsible for my group, I must fulfill my duty to the very end.