When Russell Davis first heard the news, he flew home from Switzerland early. Word had come to him from all directions—the foreign edition of CNN, urgent phone calls from home, and emotional email bursts from friends on campus.
In a convulsion of violence, a mentally disturbed student shot and killed thirty-two students in the Norris and West Ambler Johnston halls at Virginia Tech. It was mid-April of 2007 and Russell was studying abroad, but he was also class president and a dyed-in-the-wool Hokie.
“I felt I needed to go home and be with everyone.”
The next few weeks were filled with emotions for Russell and for his fellow students, a complicated stew of anger at the shooter, grief over the lost promise of those who had been slain, and relief and guilt over having not been a target. Russell remembers trying to frame the right words for his address to the graduating class in May.
“I wanted to be careful; it was a commencement, not a funeral,” he said. In the end, standing in front of five thousand graduates at Worsham Field, he spoke from the heart, “You only live once. Never waste a moment.”
Russell showed leadership in the way he chose to be with those whom he had decided to serve. It wasn't like Mel Gibson on a stallion, rallying of the Scottish tribes in Braveheart, but a quieter call to duty, which becomes the standard against which the rest of us measure ourselves.
At Virginia's Darden School of ...