commonplace, ordinary, usual, common

I just came across an excellent speech given by William Deresiewics (I didn’t know who he was either) to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The title of the speech is Solitude and Leadership.

I had a hard time finding a representative quote from the article that would suck you in to reading it. This is a quote from the speech, where he is quoting the famous novel “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad:

He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain. . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it!

Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause.

Read the whole speech, I thought it was an excellent New Years message.

I also came across this other speech by the same author, also looks quite interesting: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education by William Deresiewicz.

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