Guest Column | Legacy deserves respect
September 29, 2013, 9:35 pm · Updated September 29, 2013, 11:40 pm·
I come from the Republic of Macedonia, where the unemployment and poverty rates have been over 30 percent for the past two decades. The poor socio-economic climate is compounded by the severe brain drain. My vision is to transform Skopje (the capital city) and Macedonia into regional leaders that will be capable of educating, retaining and attracting talented, bright minds from Macedonia and abroad who will contribute to the country’s economic development.
This is why I am excited to be doing a master’s in city planning and community and economic development at Penn. I want to understand what it takes to build, grow and sustain an institution that surpasses the founder’s vision and benefits the world. This is why Benjamin Franklin, the founder of our University, is a great example of an individual who embodies the definition of legacy that John Maxwell put forth.
This Saturday night, I was confronted with an image of appalling proportions. As I was coming back to my apartment after meeting with a friend, I biked past the Benjamin Franklin statue seated on a bench right by Locust Walk. I was shocked to see a drunk, American college-aged male urinating on Benjamin Franklin’s statue, while his friend was checking his phone, waiting for him as if nothing unusual was happening. When I asked him what he was doing, he just told me to “shake it off,” and he continued about his business. I was outraged, so I immediately phoned public safety to report the incident.
There are two reasons why I was shocked. First of all, it’s a public bench. People like to sit down and take photos with Benjamin Franklin. I know I do, which now makes me think twice about my decision. Moreover, it’s proper etiquette not to desecrate statues, especially if it’s the founder of your alma mater or of your country for that matter.
Second of all, I am not an American and I felt disgusted that somebody would show disrespect to Benjamin Franklin and everything he embodies. I really look up to Benjamin Franklin for the legacy he has established. He is a true role model for me (as I assume he is for many others). I aspire to leave a legacy like he did, so this is why I felt very offended on a personal level.
Although no human being is perfect (Benjamin Franklin was a slaveowner), his legacy is embodied in the impact of Penn’s leaders of the past, the present and the future who have fought, are fighting and will fight for undoing social wrongs in the world.
My question to the individual who urinated on the statue is: What will be the embodiment of your legacy? Will it be the scent of ammonia on the bench, which is probably gone by now? Or inspiring the people around you to be the leaders of tomorrow in their respective fields? I hope you will opt for the latter rather than the former.
Stefan Ivanovski is a graduate student in the School of Design. His email address is email@example.com.