A 60-something year-old University President from Iowa heading to Tanzania to attempt to climb 19,340 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro?

That's me. David Maxwell, president of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

I will be accompanying members of the Drake University Football Team to Tanzania as part of the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl — the first collegiate game of American football to be played on the African continent.

As part of this experience we will engage in service projects — including building a wing on an orphanage for children of AIDS victims, building housing for teachers at a school outside of Moshi, clearing land for school playgrounds, and working with a local organization that serves orphaned street children.

We will cap the trip with a trip to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with our partners (and competitors) the CONADEIP All-Stars from Mexico.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why am I doing this?

I’ve been asked repeatedly over the past few months why I’m going to Tanzania—sometimes by people who think I’m out of my mind (and I’m happy to prove them right). But I know why we’re all going: we’re going because we never have. We’re going because we’ve never helped build a wing on an orphanage in a developing country. We’re going because many of us have never climbed a mountain—certainly not one this high. We’re going because almost all of us have never been in Africa, which means we are incomplete as human beings—we are missing an essential part of the human experience that can help make us whole. We are going because it will enhance our “connectedness to the world around us.” We are going because we will share the experience among ourselves, and with our friends from Mexico, of having our worlds explode wide open. And I am also going because I can’t wait to share the experience with my sons.

For me personally, even though I’ve spent time in roughly 30 countries around the globe, this trip will widen my world. It will deepen my world. It will make my world more complex, more rich, more nuanced, both more understandable and more mysterious. But those consequences are not ultimately for my personal benefit or gain (although I will benefit immensely) — they’re what all that will enable me to do. For more than four decades, I have been in a profession that gives me the opportunity to make a difference, to make it matter that I was here: I am a teacher, I am a mentor. My purpose is to help others realize their dreams. In my current position as president of this wonderful institution, I have a powerful responsibility to demonstrate with my words and deeds to all of our constituencies, internal and external, what Drake is and what we the Drake community aspire to be. I have to be able to live who we are, to live our expectations of our students. I have an even more powerful responsibility to do everything that I can, along with everyone who serves Drake, to ensure that Drake is what our students and faculty expected when they came to Drake—that they can find their dreams and live them.

If this trip and all that it entails lives up to my expectations, it will make me better able to serve—and in doing so it will give my life even more meaning; it will matter even more that I was here, that there was a purpose for me because of what I will be able to do for others.

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