George School welcomed Burt Ross ’61 back to campus to speak at assembly about his life experiences on Monday, October 16, 2017 in Walton Auditorium.
Burt graduated from Harvard with honors in 1965, and eventually went on to graduate from NYU’s Law School. His career spanned from working on Wall Street to being elected mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey at the age of 28—the youngest mayor in the country of a community the size of Fort Lee at the time.
While at George School, he was president of his class for two years, editor of the George School News, captain of the chess team, and president of the Civil Rights Club. During his speech, Burt reminisced about his time at George School and emphasized that the value of the community is what makes it a joy to come back and revisit his old stomping grounds.
Below are Burt’s key takeaways for students that he shared during his speech “Lessons of Life.”
1. You will have setbacks in your life, and you will not always get what you want. The quality of life depends on how quickly you can get back up. Do not be too tough on yourself or others—we are all human.
2. Take risks in life. Follow your passion and do what you enjoy. History is about people who take risks, not people who play it safe. Ask yourself: what makes you feel happy and fulfilled?
3. Do not spend all of your time thinking about the past, or planning for the future, or else you will miss the present. You determine what you get out of life and your experiences. Be able to find the good in each and every day.
4. Take responsibility for your own actions. Do not blame others for your problems, or see yourself as a victim. Everything bad in the world is not someone else’s fault. Accept others for who they are and do not waste time blaming them, or trying to change them.
5. Learn the Serenity Prayer. This simple and profound prayer offers wisdom and room for reflection. There is comfort in realizing that we do not, and cannot, control everything in life.
6. Be prepared for change. Be open to change and new experiences. Learn how to adjust to life’s surprises. How you adjust to them will impact the quality of your life.
7. Do not be afraid to share your feelings and your vulnerability. When you have a setback, reach out to family, a friend, relative, teacher, or others who care about you. This will help you build stronger relationships and a more fulfilling life. Also, do not hesitate to help others. It is what gets you out of yourself and allows you to grow closer to others and the community.
8. Count your blessings. Be positive and grateful for what you do have, and do not always dwell on the negative and what you do not have. Most of life has to do with attitude, and focusing on the positives will make life more enjoyable.
9. Carpe Diem—Seize the day! Youth is a great time to learn, explore, see the world, and develop your passions and talents. Do not wait to start enjoying your life.
Burt’s final lesson to students was, “Gaudeamus igitur Iuvenes dum sumus” (“Let us rejoice while we are still young!”)