By: Mimi Robinson
I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity recently to reflect on how the Junior Achievement Community has affected my life. In 2013, I participated in the essay competition that revolved around the following question: “Which will do more to improve life in the United States over the next decade, business entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs? Why?” I remember reading the question and asking out loud and responding – Why not both?
To prove my belief that truly exceptional entrepreneurs must have both a social consciousness and practical business skills, I focused my essay on the life philosophy of my favorite literary and theatrical hero: Jean Valjean, of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Through Valjean, I realized that the social and business entrepreneur need not be in combat with each other. I asserted, “To foster national progress, the business leader must be guided by the social activist’s compassion for the world, and the social engineer must understand that a rising tide of business can elevate the lives of all.”
Participating in Junior Achievement’s essay competition was the first time I’d written something that felt bigger than myself, and as I wrote each sentence, I remember feeling like something about me was going to be different when I finished. It’s not that I thought I was going to win something, or that I was going to be invited to a dinner in DC, but I felt that writing this piece was changing the way I viewed the act of writing itself.
This competition really instilled a faith in my skills as a writer that I didn’t have before. I knew I could construct a thesis statement and back it up with evidence, but I hadn’t considered that I have the capacity, right now, to alter the way someone thinks… and that is a tremendous responsibility, but also a miraculous gift.
To all of this year's essay competition winners: you were chosen as winners because you can construct a great, intelligent essay. But also because you created a piece of writing with passion, conviction, and your own little sliver of light. You took a piece of yourself, and instilled it in someone else’s mind. You changed and shaped someone’s perspective of the world, and there’s no greater power than that.
So as you venture through every new experience, the best advice I could give to you is to remember that your voice is influential, and it’s strongest when you speak, write, and live with passion. Sincere congratulations to all of you; I hope you continue to write with conviction wherever you go.