Character, scholarship, leadership, and service Vermillion High School senior Laura Aga lights the candle representing character during Tuesday's National Honor Society induction ceremony. By David Lias University of South Dakota President James Abbott told a group of Vermillion High School juniors Tuesday that their abilities as scholars gave them a unique role in society.
He told the young people, shortly before they recited the pledge that formally inducted them into the National Honor Society, that their education gave them the ability to change the world.
This ability, he added, is bestowed on a select few who truly want to make a difference. It's a trait that many of the most idolized in our society, from professional athletes and rock stars, to movie actresses and NASCAR drivers, don�t possess.
Abbott was one of four speakers who took part in Tuesday's ceremonies. Their topics matched the four cornerstones of the National Honor Society: scholarship, leadership, service and character.
USD professor Tom Davies, who also serves as an alderman on the Vermillion City Council, was tapped to speak about leadership.
"Leaders, he said, come from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life."
"They may be born with those inherent qualities that set them apart from others, or a crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion," he said.
Most of the time, Davies said, a person chooses to become a leader because of a desire to make a difference.
He noted that the students about to be inducted into the National Honor Society already know that leadership requires considerable sacrifice, extraordinary time and effort, hard work and commitment.
"Leadership is not without risks, does not guarantee rewards and may not result in widespread popularity," Davies said. "Sometimes, failure cannot be avoided, and success cannot be achieved."
"Yet, leaders do not give up."
Davies urged the students to continue striving to make a difference.
"Do not settle for what comes easy," he said. "Be a leader, not because of what it can do for you, but because of what you can do for the common good."
Lana Svien, who has traveled to Guatemala for the past nine years as part of Sharing the Dream, talked about service, and what she has learned from her experiences.
"Service is a partnership," she said. "It is not doing what we think they (the people you�re trying to help) need."
Svien said often times, in her work with indigent Guatemalan women, she would discover that their needs are much different than expected.
Those experiences taught her to also be ready to offer her services with an open mind, without coming across with an attitude she has the only solution to a problem.
"You need to say, 'yes, that's a good idea. What can we do together?'" Svien said.
In colleges across the country, a popular concept is "service learning," which combines education with providing a valuable service to society.
Recent surveys, Svien said, have shown that many students stop providing those services once they have achieved their education.
"When you leave your college," she told the VHS juniors, "continue to commit yourself to service."
Evelyn Schlenker told the students that she first turned to her dictionary as she prepared her remarks about character.
The origin of the word character, she said, comes from the Greek term meaning to engrave or to make a mark.
"It's a growth process," Schlenker said. �This process will include integrity and honesty with everything that you do."
As an individual's character develops, she added, leadership is not far behind.
"With leadership you have to take risks but their are great rewards," Schlenker said. "Character is something that develops your entire life."