The Burden of Privilege

As you reflect on your life thus far,what has someone said, written or expressed in some fashion that is especially meaningful to you? Why?

You can use your enormous privilege and opportunity to seek purely private pleasure and gain. But history will judge you, and ultimately, you will judge yourself, on the extent to which you have used your gifts to enlighten and enrich the lives of your neighbors.Robert F. Kennedy spoke these words to a group of university students in 1966. The wisdom of these words has touched me more profoundly than anything else I have ever read, heard, or seen. When I first saw this quote, I did not pay much attention to it. The quotation was printed on the front of a brochure for a summer program called the Civic Leadership Institute (CLI). I stumbled upon it as I was searching for a productive way to spend my summer. When I read it for a second time, I saw that the statement was much more than a simple catchphrase. The quote on the pamphlet’s cover influenced my decision to attend the course. Those three weeks turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life, which is why this quotation was – and still is – incredibly meaningful to me.When I read this quote, I was struggling to accept the disparities between the different social echelons that exist in our own nation. It was impossible for me to accept the fact that the circumstances a person is born into could be so instrumental in determining that person’s future and “success.” The Attorney General’s words told me to use my assets to help support those less fortunate than me, rather than spend my life lamenting the unfair advantages I have over others. It placated my frustration by suggesting that, as long as I dedicate myself to “enriching the lives of” those less fortunate than me, I may rest comfortably at my position in the social hierarchy. This reassured me and laid the foundation for a “plan of action” to effect changes in my society.This quote impacts me most profoundly when I think about the path it compelled me to follow. Because the quotation inspired me so, it was one of the reasons that I decided to attend CLI this past summer. I have already provided quite a bit of information on this subject, and I will try not to be unnecessarily repetitive. At CLI, I developed an interest in political and civic issues. Visiting the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was particularly interesting to me. Although they spoke mostly about the death penalty, I was intrigued by the concept of an organization that stands up for groups with few or no rights. Currently, I am considering a career in politics so that I may be an advocate for some of the causes that I believe are so grossly underrepresented in our nation. The quote’s role in prodding me towards attending what would be one of the most influential experiences of my life makes it much more meaningful for me.The truth behind these words that Robert F. Kennedy spoke resonates in today’s world, where so many people are concerned with “getting ahead” in life that they neglect their fellow citizens. No matter how much money these people make, however, they will never know true success until they are able to overcome their selfish nature. I know it will be hard, but I look forward to resting easy when I am old, knowing that I did everything I could to improve the lives of those around me.

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