Executive Remarks, Student Body President Lamar Richards
New Student Convocation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
August 16, 2021
Good evening, everyone. Today, as each of you sits in your seat and begins to position yourself within the Carolina Community, your mind may be filled with thoughts, questions, and most of all, expectations. Each day, as individuals, we grapple with expectations- those others set for us, those we set for ourselves, and those we set for the people and spaces around us. Standing before everyone this morning, I know that you hold different expectations of who I am as a person, student, and leader- and of what I am here to share with you all today.
For some, you may be gripping the arms of your seat in anticipation of inspirational words- words that will uplift you, igniting a fire in your bellies as eager first-year and second-year students as you embark on a new chapter- exploring the physical spaces of Carolina for the first time. Others may expect me to set a different kind of blaze to the University today, one sustained by examining an exhaustive list of our University’s critical issues and necessity for a future facing, student-centered and student-driven Carolina.
While I cannot guarantee I will share what each of you expects today, I will tell you this — Carolina is a complicated place. This complication comes naturally at a University the size of Carolina with its immense, global footprint- issues arising are simply unavoidable. Nevertheless, here, as the country’s oldest public University, we inherit an obligation to face the most pressing global issues head-on. We are charged with this responsibility, and each day we strive to create, innovate, and problem-solve to uncomplicate the things that make Carolina complicated.
Similarly, as students exploring various fields at Carolina, we are charged with unique challenges. Each day you will strive for excellence- in the classroom, in your extracurriculars, in public service- gaining valuable experience, which will set you on the course for working or pursuing additional education upon the end of your undergraduate experience. However, your experience as a Carolina student is much more than just your academic commitments or extracurriculars or your public service — Carolina is you. Part of your responsibility, immersing yourself in this robust and diverse campus, is to challenge us- your peers, your TAs, your professors, to do and be better each day. Never be afraid to use your voice and share your perspective- your voice matters.
As you visualize and craft your expectations for the year ahead and your time at Carolina, remember: there is no perfect picture of success. There is only you and your best. So every day that you wake up, a Carolina student does not challenge yourself to out-do and outmaneuver your peers or strive to meet someone else’s expectations of you – give your best every day. Remember, there will be days when your best looks different or less than it did the day before, and no matter how significant the difference, be proud of your efforts.
As you acclimate to Carolina, I offer you the words of French Philosopher Michael D. Montaigne, who said, ”He who fears he will suffer, already suffers because he fears.” It is easy to categorize individual events as “success” and “failure,” but I challenge each of you to look beyond those labels- your job as a student is not to prevent failure, to look at rejection as an endpoint, but rather your task each day is to give your best at each thing you do. Moments will come when you will not achieve the outcome you desire. In these moments, holding faith in yourself to trust in your process is crucial to achieving the success you envision for yourself in the future.
We have established that Carolina is a complicated community, but most importantly, Carolina is your home– and you should never change who you are in an attempt to fit in here. Today and all around you on campus is a vibrant community of students, as excited as exuberant as each of you, and among these people, like a home, you will find places and spaces you feel most comfortable. Lean into these people and allow them to support you and celebrate you as your authentic self. On a campus with 900 student groups amid the buzz of 30,000 students – it is easy to get swept away in the enormity of it all, but the more connections you attempt to build, the more faces become familiar, the easier it will be to find your place, and you will thrive.
In the months ahead, you will face a significant adjustment. Some of you will have a go at using a laundry machine for the first time, learn how to use the bus system, and many of you will expand and modify the ways that you learn and study. Nevertheless, no matter the difficulty you face in the coming weeks, remember, you have already completed the most challenging part — you made it here. You soared through the grilling and extensive admissions process and proved your academic aptitude, commitment to lifelong service, and showed off your large aspirations to change the world. You made it here; you can make it anywhere.
As your student body president, I want each of you to remember that you will always have a friend in me. No matter the issue, I will be a relentless, fearless advocate for you every day. Never be afraid to reach out to me if there is anything you need at any point along the coming year. I hope they start your academic year is everything you need and deserve it to be. Welcome to Carolina and Go Heels!