Actions may come and go, but words will never die.
I think about that statement often as I am reading. The first — and only time — I heard that seemingly contradictory phrase was junior year of high school. I thought it was odd at first; how can one justify actions coming and going, when all our lives we are taught to remember and revere the actions of heroic individuals since the dawn of time? How can words possibly outlast deeds?
Yet, as I continued to look back on that statement, I began thinking about it from different perspectives. When we think of actions, we think of a cause and effect; a definitive who, what, where, when, why, and how. We trace a material effect, whether it be a shift in ideology, policy, or — perhaps — nothing at all. The point being, these actions have traceable themes, and these themes are often static once they are far enough back in history.
Words, on the other hand, carry different meaning, depending on the situation. Imagine reading a book at age 12 and then again at 25; certain nuances that couldn’t possibly be picked up in the first read now seem clear as day, while the important theme you once believed was central now seems secondary to something else. Words are always dynamic, always engaging, and always teaching us more.
And in my first few days as editor-in-chief, I have seen this statement hold true now more than ever. I couldn’t possibly tell you what we did step-by-step each night of production; I probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you who was there. But I can tell you that the outcome of those actions — the words printed in that daily paper and published online — will be remembered. Certainly some will be forgotten, just like anything else, yet those that stick with you will continue to impact your dialogue and encourage you to keep thinking and to keep discussing.
It is my job as editor-in-chief to provide you with those words, and it is the job of my staff to present them in a professional manner. However, it is your job to engage with those words.
For the next year, as the 143rd Board runs its term, I am challenging everyone to engage. I challenge everyone not just to absorb, but to discuss, to respond, and even to reflect. In adapting another common phrase of today, if you read something, say something.
With so many references to fake news, alternative facts, and “he said, she said” debates, the conversation has veered severely off course, and instead of focusing on the actual issues and their impact, we choose to debate whether what is reported constitutes the truth. I don’t think there is anything wrong with challenging the validity of a claim or a source. I worry, however, that questions of legitimacy have furthered political agendas.
Is it truly the case that tens of thousands of reporters have simply given up journalistic integrity in favor of their own agendas? I doubt it. Instead, many of the people who decry “fake news” choose not to engage in “tough” conversations about the political, social, economic, and moral challenges of our time.
Are we really that afraid to absorb something we disagree with, and, if so, why? Is it because we are concerned about debating “the other side,” or is it because we are scared of challenging our own conventional wisdom?
So I encourage you — the students, faculty, and staff of Princeton — to engage. I am, at times, surprised, and even confused, that at a place of learning that brings so many intelligent people together, our University remains an institution where dialogue is lacking.
There are many things on this campus that people can disagree with that transcend the four years in this bubble: apparent social hierarchy through group affiliations; the management of individual goals and the collective, compromising approach needed for relationships; the difference in opinion between people of contrasting political ideologies; and the effect of diversity — or lack thereof — in various spaces on campus, just to name a few. I hope that we do not shy away from these hard discussions but instead embrace and welcome them as opportunities to debate and learn.
Take, for example, the various eating-club articles we have published over the past few weeks. The idea of Bicker is always a hot topic this time of year, and it is one of the few times where I see true dialogue taking place among the student body.
Whether you are a member of a Bicker club, a member of a sign-in club, or someone who stands against everything to do with the Street, these pieces provide an opportunity for you to examine one argument and compare it with your own beliefs. If these pieces cause you to engage in debate with your peers, fantastic; if they cause you to look deeper into your own views and challenge conventional ideas, even better.
As a member of a Bicker club, there were certainly points I disagreed with and enjoyed having conversations with people who felt the other way. And there were also times where I felt my own notions challenged; surely it was a bit scary, but also quite rewarding. As Princeton students, we should never be afraid of a little challenge, so why not push ourselves ideologically?
We at ‘the Prince’ also continue to challenge ourselves ideologically. Recognizing , our staff and senior leadership are committed to ensuring these voices are heard in our daily publication. Through efforts to increase outreach within these spaces, a push to broaden our coverage of these groups, and a desire to grow the number of staff members within these groups to serve as student liaisons, we are committed to exploring new avenues of dialogue, which are not achievable without increased diversity within our organization.
As I sit and think about the rewards for spending nearly a quarter of each day putting the paper together, the word that keeps me coming back is “impact.” The days when we are able to publish something that has an impact — that engages students in conversation and maybe even effects change — are the days when I feel most rewarded.
But I can only go so far in terms of providing the material; it is up to you to use it as you see fit. When you have an opinion on something in our publication, I encourage you to speak on it, and maybe even write on it, so that others can read your words as well. When we think back to the initial phrase, it is words that inspire actions, and words that create change. You all are the vehicle for that impact, so long as you are willing to engage.
On behalf of my entire staff, I would like to welcome you to the 143rd year of The Daily Princetonian.