Day 19: McCook, NE to Yuma, CO

Beautiful sunrise in Nebraska

Beautiful sunrise in Nebraska

Today’s ride from McCook, Nebraska to Yuma, Colorado was a really nice ride.  The terrain was sharper with bigger hills and valleys, and a plush green landscape with lots of cattle as far as the eye could see.  With it being Sunday, it was a lonely road and we did not see too many people or cars, but the vast and lively landscape kept me engaged.  Not sure why, be we saw lots of turtles crossing the road today. As we approached Hagler, Nebraska, there was a sign that said Kansas one-half mile south.  Since I have not been to Kansas on any of my previous bike rides, we took a little detour.

Welcome to Kansas!

The Road to Discovery stops in Kansas for the first time.

The welcoming sign to Colorado was a great site to see. It felt like I was now out west and that I have made some big progress.  Nebraska was a long state.

Welcome to Colorful Colorado! Three states in one day.

We biked through three different states today. Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

There was no event scheduled tonight, so I had plenty of time to think about the ways that these seven years at Notre Dame have had such an impact on my own life. One of the biggest impact is how I have come to understand the importance of virtues for success in any endeavor. Technical skills and expertise are usually not enough, especially in situations that involve important interaction among people. The key role of intangible personal characteristics like virtues is a growing focus in many fields, including business as well as the academy, but there is no place like Notre Dame for seeing these virtues lived every single day in pursuit of our mission.

Our deep roots in the Catholic tradition make it natural for us to value the virtues, but this focus is one we share with the whole human society going back at least to Aristotle. Virtues are human excellences, good habits of thinking and acting that we can develop by exercising them. They give us a lens for evaluating circumstances so we can make good decisions without falling into one extreme or the other. They give us a language for talking about why we do what we do, and how we can do it more effectively. They make us stronger individuals, and they make our community flourish. They are at the heart of what we mean when we say, “we are Notre Dame.”

I learned about virtues by being around virtuous people in a virtuous community that includes our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and anyone who shares our mission to be a force for good in the world. You might say that we live in a virtuous cycle, where each person’s virtues inspire other people to grow with an accumulating and accelerating set of positive choices and actions that continuously improve our efforts. It’s what happens to me when I listen to Coach Ara, Cindy and Mike Parseghian tell their story about NPC, when I see the passion and compassion of our researchers, and when the Notre Dame cycling team volunteers its efforts for the cause.

Last year, as a gift for the participants in our Pink Zone luncheon, I made a booklet called Virtuous ND that paired the description of nearly 50 virtues with a member of the Notre Dame family, historical or present, who exemplified that virtue. The list goes from ambition, represented by Father Sorin, to zeal, represented by Lindsay Brown, a soccer star who gave up that role to help found Soccer Empowering Girls Worldwide and You (SEGway) that promotes sports activities for women in developing countries with U.S. stars. The pages include the wisdom of Father Hesburgh, the selflessness of Sweet C. Robinson from the Building Service staff, and the magnanimity of Notre Dame as an institution. You can see it here.

This year, for my last gift to the College of Science graduating class of 2015, I created a Virtues for Life booklet with brief poems to remind them of the many qualities they had gained during their time at Notre Dame. This time, the illustrations are mostly landmarks on the campus including the Log Chapel for perseverance, the Basilica for faith, the library for wisdom, the Main Building for magnanimity. You can see it here.

We are so surrounded by noble virtues at Notre Dame—even the landscape reminds us of our character and our calling. But to me, the most uplifting part is the people who live the mission every day in virtuous service to each other and to the whole human community. Those are the virtues that we bring to California, with the encouragement and example of our alumni and friends there. It is such a privilege to be a part of this family.



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