My Speech to the NHS Inductees on Scholarship
Tonight, I will be speaking to you about scholarship, one of the four pillars of the National Honor Society. Scholarship is one of those words that we all can identify with, but it isn’t that easy to define. Dictionaries often define it to mean “academic achievement, learning; or the qualities of a scholar.” The qualities of a scholar --- well my ninth grade English teacher Mr. Tomallo never would have allowed me to use the word I was trying to define in the definition, so I have to dig deeper. What is a scholar? Again I turn to the dictionary, and I find the following: “A scholar is a learned person, someone who attends school or studies with a teacher.” I’m still not satisfied with this result. It seems the online dictionaries that Google has offered me are not helping me summarize what should be an easy-definable concept, scholarship. Perhaps I will need to research some examples of scholarship to help us better understand the concept.
In preparation for this speech I decided to do some research on some of the great innovators of our time. I wanted to connect how they used scholarship to achieve their success. So tonight, let’s talk about the great scholar Steve Jobs -- one of the greatest innovators of our time. The problem is, Steve Jobs didn’t finish school at Reed College --- in fact, he dropped out. By definition I guess that doesn’t make him a scholar! Perhaps I could use Bill Gates, but I think he suffered the same fate at Harvard. I could use Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, but if any of you saw the movie the “Social Network,” I’m not sure the word “scholar” fits his personality, at least not the one of the character that portrayed him in the movie. Now, I was going to have to dig a little deeper to find a story to inspire you about scholarship this evening.
When you think of a scholar, what images come to your mind? I think of a college professor, sitting at his or her desk in deep thought. I think of the students buried deep in his or her studies on the top floor of the library. I think of a philosopher or a writer putting the finishing touches on a new book. I think of a great public speaker preparing a speech. What do these images have in common? They all represent people on a quest for knowledge, for the sake of knowledge. Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon a better definition for scholarship – Scholarship is the quest, or the pursuit of knowledge, for the sake of knowledge. If we can accept this definition, perhaps we connect this back to Steve Jobs. Steve spent his entire life on the quest for knowledge, but in his case, the knowledge helped him change the world. He may not have been a classical scholar by definition, but he certainly had the drive of a scholar. It helped that he had a team of scholars behind him. You see, Steve Jobs didn’t invent most of the products he is associated with, but he made them better. Scholars paved the way for the technology that Steve Jobs made famous. He wasn’t the first to develop a mouse, but he saw the potential in that technology as a way for humans to interact with computers. He didn’t invent the first portable music player or the first smart phone, but boy did he make everyone want to have one when his products came out.
Steve Jobs was a little unorthodox in his approach. Maybe that is why Apple decided they didn’t need him in the mid-nineties. They quickly recanted. Steve made good use of his time away from Apple though --- he developed a company called “Pixar Entertainment” and produced one of the most classic and redefining movies of our era – Toy Story. His return to Apple prompted the release of the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and eventually, the iPad.
Steve was a visionary. He was constantly in pursuit of the knowledge that helped him develop and market items that made our world easier, items that helped us make sense of the billions of pieces of information that are created each second of each day in our world. Steve Jobs was a scholar not by the classical definition, but a scholar for a new generation of learners. He was a master of critical thinking and problem solving. He understood his field, every aspect of it. No one would argue that he changed the world by his ideas, his actions, and his products.
Each of you sits on this stage tonight because you have come to exemplify some of the qualities of scholars. You are excellent students. You accept the fact that the purpose of school is to help you pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake. You don’t always know where that knowledge will take you, but you know that you’ll need it to help you define your future. Perhaps you will be the next Steve Jobs. Perhaps you’ll give the next great speech, or write the next great book. Perhaps YOU will inspire countless others to engage in scholarship just like you. You should be commended for your hard work tonight. Your induction into the National Honor Society is a testament to your hard work, your dedication, and your commitment to scholarship.