There may not seem to be much in common between a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was a graduate student more than 40 years ago and an Olympic gold medalist who’s still an undergraduate. But when George Will *68 and Joey Cheek ’11 shared the podium in McCosh 50 Sept. 15, they delivered similar messages, pushing the Class of 2014 towards civic engagement.
Will and Cheek were among the speakers at Wednesday’s “Reflections of Service” forum, an annual freshman orientation event sponsored by the University’s Pace Center for Civic Engagement.
Will, a columnist for The Washington Post, urged the Class of 2014 to become politically active, calling political participation an important form of civic engagement.Will also warned against defining civic service too narrowly. Making money and helping people, he argued, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
“I don’t care whether you’re Democrats or Republicans, Libertarians or vegetarians,” he said. “Give some thought to engage in the tremendous fun of electoral politics.”
“Doing a job well in the United States, almost any job, is a form of civic engagement in that it makes the country prosper,” said Will. “Creating wealth is a form of helping our country.”
Cheek, an Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, talked about being disenchanted with competition – “skating fast in circles” as he described it – until he realized he could use his celebrity for a greater good. In 2006, Cheek donated his $25,000 gold-medal bonus to the international humanitarian organization Right to Play. He also co-founded the group Team Darfur to raise awareness about the genocide in Sudan.
“Find a way to become involved now,” said Cheek. “Not only that, bring a friend.”
Cheek arrived at Princeton as a 28-year-old freshman. Now a senior, he told the freshman class to think of itself as the small percentage of people who have the opportunity to live up to their full potential.
“Hundreds of people – your parents, your teachers – have contributed directly or indirectly for you to be able to stay and study at one of the finest institutions in the world,” Cheek said. “Organizations like the Pace Center here at Princeton give you a chance to use these gifts to give some sort of opportunity to someone else.”