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Small Steps Toward Big Leadership

If I were asked one year ago today how to make a change in this world, I would have gone on about all the big actions I would have to take, how much work I would have to do by myself, and how many tireless years of work it would take. If you were to ask me again today how to make a difference in the world, I would now tell you that little actions can also have huge impacts, that I can and must rely on others to help me, and that the changes I make can be immediately successful.

By Adam Hurwitz, Eisner Camp Machon participant from Newton, MA. Adam originally gave this speech at a URJ summer reception hosted by Daryl Messinger and Jim Heeger in Lenox, MA.

First off, I want to thank Emily, Louis, and Daryl for the opportunity to speak today.

If I were asked one year ago today how to make a change in this world, I would have gone on about all the big actions I would have to take, how much work I would have to do by myself, and how many tireless years of work it would take.

If you were to ask me again today how to make a difference in the world, I would now tell you that little actions can also have huge impacts, that I can and must rely on others to help me, and that the changes I make can be immediately successful.

What inspired the shift in how I see the world, and my role in improving it, were the two life changing programs I had the chance to participate in over the last year. The Northeast Leadership Summit in September, and the Eisner Camp Machon program I am in right now, complement each other very well. Both have made me a better leader, have strengthened my Jewish identity, and have shaped my view of the world. Together, these two programs have changed my life for the better, and I believe everybody should have the great opportunity to experience both.

When I was nominated for the Northeast Leadership Summit last fall, I signed up immediately. Not because I knew how many valuable lessons I would learn, not because I understood how well it would complement the Machon program, but because I wanted to hang out with my camp friends. What I quickly realized, however, was that the Summit was much more powerful than I ever could have imagined. Through important programming, we learned not just how to be a good leader, but why it was important to have a new wave of leadership emerging from my generation to make our world a better one for future generations.

I learned that I could make a change, I learned that I was needed to make a change, and I learned above all that I wanted to make a change.

The culmination of the Leadership Summit was for me the most impactful and lasting experience. In groups we created real plans to use the skills and ideas we built throughout the weekend to take action and actually change something in the world. My group founded Feed a Need, an organization that would facilitate donations by customers at restaurants in major cities to help pay for the meals of people who could not buy their own.

The Leadership Summit broke down many of my misconceptions, and gave me confidence in my ability to spark a change, but I didn’t have the rich understanding of leadership and change-making I have today. For example, in September, I still believed we would have to launch an expensive, multi-city campaign to make any dent in the number of hungry Americans.

This summer, though, I have not only learned, but truly internalized, that small actions can have big effects. As we have studied acts of kindness, I can see that to improve the world, all improvements make an impact. As we have studied thankfulness, I have realized that even if I can only feed 10 people, those 10 people will be so thankful that it is beyond worth my time. Finally, as I have begun my time as an Eisner Camp counselor this summer, I see the power that I have in shaping the minds of young children. The campers I work with look to me for a better understanding of the world, so I now realize that they can be the ones to help me on my journey to repair our world.

From my amazing experiences in these two programs, I know I can make a change. I know I can launch Feed a Need and begin feeding hungry families. I know I can have an immediate impact on many lives. And above all, I know I can help raise and shape an amazing group of campers to rise up and join my on my mission to make our world a better place.

As I embark on my final year of high school, with the values of the Leadership Summit and Machon in my pocket, I am confident in my ability to be the leader I have always aspired to be, to go out into the world, and to make a difference.

Thank you!