Walz: Service to others a priority

NEW ULM – Congressman Tim Walz congratulated the students honored at the 49th annual Rotary Scholars Recognition Banquet Monday night at Martin Luther College.

Walz, the guest speaker for the evening, thanked students for their hard work and accomplishments, but told them their work is just starting.

“You have some opportunities that are gifts to you,” Walz told the seniors from New Ulm High School, Cathedral High School and Minnesota Valley Lutheran who represent the top 15 percent of their classes. “These are gifts either from your Creator for the intelligence you possess, or from your parents who have taught you the work ethic to succeed to the best of your ability.”

“But you can choose several courses with that. You can choose to take those gifts and do what’s right, to do for you what you need to see done, or you can choose to take those gifts and do what’s right for you and for others,” said Walz.

“Here in this room tonight, we honor you, we honor your achievement, but we expect much out of you,” Walz said. “We expect that sense of service, of what you can do.”

Walz cited an essay by Robert Greenleaf on Servant Leadership. The point of the essay is that before anyone can lead, they have to put their priorities right.

“It has to be service first, service to others, service to a greater cause than yourself, service to the greater community, and only then will your true leadership abilities come out, only then will you be able to accomplish what you really want.”

Walz said that coming to places like the Scholarship banquet was restorative in a time when what is happening outside tends to lead him to slide into cynicism.

“This is the place of optimism; this is the place of community; this is the place of potential. This is not a cliche. You truly are the future,” he said.

“There is no generation that we have records of who is doing more in terms of volunteering in your community as your generation. There is no generation that is moving at a better pace in all the measures of healthiness and doing the right things, than your generation,” said Walz.

Walz said the occasion was about thanking the students, but also for “making us feel good about the future, us feeling optimistic. That’s the gift that you have. At a time when it seems like there’s no way we get along, it seems like there’s no way to come together on things, this country’s looking for you to do that. I, for one, rest pretty well at night knowing you’re coming along.”

Walz urged students to carry their service, their involvement in their schools out into the community as they move on in life. Their involvement may be in public service or elected office, or in the business they are going to start, or in the service organizations they join to do things for others.

“You’re well on your way,” said Walz. “You’re a few short years away from the torch being passed to you. My fear is that our generation doesn’t get it to you in very good shape by that time, but that’s our job to work on.”