FOLAN: Sacrifice, Integrity Worthy Aspirations for ’24

The following originally appeared in the Boston Herald on January 1, 2024:

Everyone needs role models and to be inspired and aspire towards something greater. Before the Army-Navy game at a leadership symposium hosted by the National Medal of Honor Leadership and Education Center, a group of Catholic Memorial seniors and I found all three.

The event showcased esteemed New England Medal of Honor recipients Thomas Kelley and Ryan Pitts, as well as Rear Admiral Tom Lynch. The distinguished panelists shared the values and virtues they relied upon in the most challenging of moments. They highlighted the importance of being authentic, having integrity, embracing hard work, and the importance of devoting oneself to others. Their humility, courage, patriotism, and selflessness inspired all in attendance.

Meeting a Medal of Honor recipient is an honor of a lifetime. In 2021, our school hosted Lt. Brian Thacker, one of the 67 living Medal of Honor recipients, to share his courageous story.  In 2023, Adam Makos’s “Devotion” was our all-school summer read. The book chronicles the lives of the Distinguished Flying Cross recipient and the first African-American carrier pilot Jesse Brown and Fall River’s Medal of Honor recipient Captain Thomas Hudner Jr. Hudner’s selfless decision to force-land his Corsair to try and save his wingman’s life is the ultimate story of courage and sacrifice; one that cannot be retold enough.

Brown, Hudner, Thacker, Kelley, Pitts, and veterans of many wars have sacrificed for causes greater than themselves. Meeting heroes, like these men, and hearing their stories has inspired our entire school community and provided us with incredible role models, who personify service over self. Role models like these inspire us to be more and to do more. They remind us that nothing worthwhile comes easily, and that anything of value requires sacrifice: the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

For most of us, the sacrifices we make in our lives will not come in moments of great fanfare or with any recognition. Instead, the sacrifices we make are most often small acts of giving that build upon themselves, making us better human beings. If we give away a little of ourselves each day, the habit will become part of us and change us and our communities for the better.

During this new year, intentionally seek out stories of valor and selflessness. Search for role models who face their fears and achieve something greater through personal sacrifice. By learning from these heroes and their stories, we can embrace the inherent values within them and recognize our responsibilities and our potential. These are resolutions that we should all aspire towards in 2024.

Dr. Peter F. Folan is the president of Catholic Memorial. 

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CM prepares students for the rigors of college and beyond. While here, boys embark on service-learning opportunities, leadership development, and character formation programs inspiring them to become confident, courageous young men motivated to do good in the world. 

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Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.