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What Do Your Students Want to Be Remembered For?


rosa parksOver the weekend, I came across an article on Time Magazine’s website and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The article hones in on a question Peter Drucker—an author, professor and management consultant—has been asking university students, clients and himself for years: “What do you want to be remembered for?”

A question like this is certainly appropriate considering that we are only a week into the New Year. Ultimately, though, it strikes me that this is a timeless question we should all be asking ourselves. Why though?

A question like Drucker’s forces us to reflect on our daily choices and, as Phalana Tiller, the host of the Drucker Institute’s monthly podcast puts it, “places a mirror before [us] where, for a brief second, [we] have to confront whether [we’re] actually living up to [our]stated values.”

I recently shared a list of activities to help students reflect back on 2013 and I thought having students write up a reflective essay that answers Drucker’s question might make a fine addition to this list.

Should you decide to give this assignment a try, you may want to have students read the original article and, in particular, take a close look at how some of Tiller’s interviewees responded when they were asked what they wanted to be remembered for.

If you need a little help getting the discussion going with students, you might also share a few of the quotes below:

  • “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family—and I don't think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.”
    -Frank Sinatra

  • “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
    -Rosa Parks

  • “I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I don't think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.”
    -Orson Welles

  • “I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”
    -J. K. Rowling

  • “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
    -William Shakespeare

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