Leadership Through Service
By Susan Bonifield, Nu Beta (U of Mississippi), International Vice President
I have reflected quite a lot in recent days on what it means to live a life of service. The news of former US President Jimmy Carter entering hospice care has generated an outpouring of tributes here in Atlanta, across the country and around the globe, and I can think of no better legacy of lifelong service than the one he now leaves. To me, one of the most compelling things about his life is that perhaps his greatest impact on our world came after he left his formal position of power. His is an outstanding example of how power does not necessarily determine impact and how the greatest form of leadership often looks a lot like service.
These concepts resonate strongly with me as a woman, a leader, and a member of the Greek community. With many people questioning whether organizations like ours are still relevant today, I believe it is this concept of leadership through service that makes the existence of sororities even more critical than ever. In one of his most famous quotes, President Carter said “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” That is exactly what AOII, and all Greek organizations must do – be laser focused on our Ritual while thoughtfully considering how those values are best applied in today’s world. I believe that one of the ways we can live our Ritual and still be relevant to this changing world is by actively demonstrating our commitment to service.
One of the most inspiring things about our sisterhood is the diversity of passions across our membership. While we all share a commitment to service, the way we demonstrate that commitment varies. Many sisters have dedicated their lives to healing while some work tirelessly to educate others; our members advocate for human rights and create opportunities for others to thrive. As an organization, we bring joy and comfort to children and their families through our support of the Arthritis Foundation and their juvenile arthritis programs. We raise funds to support sisters in need through the AOII Foundation. In short, our collective commitment to service is changing the world, and there is no better test of relevance than that.
In the words of Jimmy Carter, taken from his speech at the 2016 Human Rights Defenders Forum, “What is needed now, more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity.” So let us learn from his example and commit to living our own lives of service. Let us lead with inspiration, with courage and with kindness steering steadily toward our goal of positively impacting humanity in the ways that speak most loudly to each of us. Our Ritual teaches us the mainspring of our sisterhood is service. Let us each embrace the opportunity leadership provides to be of service to our Fraternity and celebrate our ability to change the world.