Practicing Conviction

Each year at this time, we recognize and honor the qualities of scholarship, leadership, service, and character with the induction of selected students into Pinewood’s Chapter of the National Honor Society. And each year, I open this very special ceremony by speaking to one of these qualities.

This year, I addressed these qualities collectively – with a poem – and in the process, proposed a challenge to our students, all of our students, about practicing conviction.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When one considers the last stanza of this beautiful poem by American poet Robert Frost, it’s easy to consider it as being about taking the road that is ‘more difficult’ ‘more challenging’ – the ‘less traveled path’ when given the option in life. This is how people often interpret it – although this is erroneous, I believe.

If you read it more carefully, you will understand that the poem is about the process of decision-making itself – and how our decisions often are complex and require us to predict outcomes. At the same time, it is telling us that our decisions are always going to be the source of reflection in our lives.

In fact, the two paths in the poem are really the same – both full of leaves and no foot tracks on either. So, essentially, it’s suggesting that we are free to choose, but we don’t really know beforehand what we are choosing between….and consequently, what is going to happen.

My challenge to you, then, is to make decisions with the strength of conviction and avoid worrying about the choices that you ‘didn’t make’. Decisions make up the moments of your life.

So, whether it is a decision about:

  • your academic future – like choosing a university
  • or a difficult decision as a leader – like how to work with a classmate with whom you disagree
  • or a decision that challenges your character – like a friend asking you to lie for him or her
  • or a decision about how to best be of service to others – like deciding how much volunteer time is enough to help a child in need,

Make decisions with the strength of conviction.

Always try to make them with the best intentions.

Don’t regret your decisions.

This is my message to our students during this special time of the year. Many congratulations to the five new inductees, as well! See the photo album from our NHS Induction Ceremony here.

Dr. Giampapa is the President of Pinewood American International School, a forward-thinking PreK-12 college preparatory school in Thessaloniki, Greece.