Keeping good company
Author: Bert de Guzman (BBA '90)
‘… a good path starts with good company.”
The experiences that take place between the ages of 18 to 22 have life-long impact. For me, this period when a person usually transitions from “kid” to “not a kid” cemented the foundations started by my parents, foundations on which my moral compass continuously calibrates. To describe the significance of Notre Dame on my life, I’ll put it this way: My Notre Dame experience stands me in good stead.
I arrived at Notre Dame in the ’80s, an international student at a time when there weren’t very many international students. Full disclosure: my mother is American so although I grew up outside the US, American culture was not exactly foreign to me. But I was certainly not as “American” as the archetypal Domer. Indeed, I spent the next four years being close to Americans, none of whom had ever travelled outside the country (unless you count the guy from Minnesota who once canoed into Canadian waters during a camping trip and whom I credit with adding “portage” to my vocabulary). Do I launch into an emotional diatribe detailing lessons from all the times I encountered ignorance, thoughtlessness and ethnocentrism? No, because I didn’t encounter such things at Notre Dame, or at least not in a way that left any imprint on my memory.
Though I knew little about football and didn’t share the general excitement over a newly arrived coach named Lou Holtz, my roommates convinced me to hold off from getting rid of my student tickets until after attending the first home game. On that day, I was introduced to tailgating; witnessed the gold helmets entering the field; and felt an energy in Notre Dame Stadium that was unlike anything I could have imagined. I didn’t miss a single home game during my four years and was fortunate to be a student when the 1988 National Championship was won. There were many similarly impactful experiences weaved into the traditions at Notre Dame, too many to fit into this essay. Images of Touchdown Jesus, the Grotto, Sacred Heart and the Golden Dome always rekindle memories linked to the friendships and camaraderie from a special time long ago. Tradition is a word synonymous with Notre Dame. But traditions take on meaning only when they are lived. I lived the ND traditions, and credit the ND community for making it happen.
My parents always said being on a good path starts with keeping good company. At ND, it was easy to keep good company. Those I encountered made me feel welcome by just being themselves, and allowing me to be myself. This dynamic worked because despite my cultural differences, we embraced similar values. Notre Dame has been described as a place where Christian values influence every aspect of life on campus. But Christianity doesn’t own these values which belong to humanity. These values attracted me to Notre Dame, and helped me to connect and grow with those around me.
Since graduating, I’ve lived and worked in a number of places from Singapore to Shanghai to New York, and travel quite a bit professionally (the job requires it) and personally (it’s more fun with family). Whether it’s New Delhi or New Jersey, Sydney or Sao Paolo, Dubai or Dublin, people display clear differences in languages, accents, customs, fashion, food, religions and laws. But people everywhere relate to the values which Notre Dame reinforced in me, because spirituality and morality are universal.
So indeed, my Notre Dame experience stands me in good stead. Notre Dame continued the path set by my parents, a path that has led me to where I am now. Just where is that? The humility that comes from awareness that I’m not at the center of the world enables me to make more good decisions than I otherwise might do. And as simplistic as that may be, good decisions make all the difference. I’ll pull a line from the movie Jerry McGuire to close this off: “In life, to be honest, I have failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.”