In the middle of midterm season and the summer internship search, Radhanath Swami, a world-renowned speaker, social activist, spiritual teacher and author, preached a message that Northwestern students need to hear: “People will not love you because of what you achieve … People love people because of their values, because of their compassion, because of their love.”
Radhanath, who is originally from Highland Park, said love and connection to others are key to effective leadership in his lecture “The Power to Lead” in Harris 107.
He gave an example of redwood trees that have lasted through earthquakes and terrible storms, even though their roots are not deep. The secret to their stability is that the roots grow outward rather than down into the ground, intertwining and forming “inseparable bonds.”
“Unity is their strength,” Radhanath said. “They have an innate natural quality to really care to help each other.”
He also said leadership is setting an example for others. He said it is important that leaders choose to nourish the goodness in other people.
“Within each heart, there is a good dog and a bad dog,” he said. “These two dogs are always fighting with each other … Which dog is going to prevail? The one that we choose to feed.”
A question and answer session followed the lecture. One student asked how to remain optimistic when he was surrounded by negativity in the world.
“Despite the news of terrorism, and murder, and exploitation, and racism, the goodness and the potential of loving people is always there in this world,” he responded.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl spoke briefly on the importance of listening when leading a diverse community.
“Evanston values diversity – it’s always been the best thing about us,” she said.
Before the lecture, Mayor of Highland Park Nancy Rotering gave Radhanath a key to Highland Park. Professor Jody Kretzmann, who teaches community building at Northwestern, introduced Radhanath.
Weinberg freshman Sharon Tam enjoyed hearing Radhanath’s message of unity and working together. She said she could apply his message to her own life.
“I’m pre-med,” she said. “My main job now is to work hard academically and so that I can reach that level … and have a greater impact as a doctor.”
Tam also appreciated Radhanath’s local roots.
“The fact that he’s from around here, that he could be any one of us – it’s more personal,” she said.