Murray Speaks On “Moments to Test Your Mettle”

Members of the Lawrenceville community gathered in the Circle for the 210th annual Convocation ceremony this past Sunday.

Members of the Lawrenceville community gathered in the Circle for the 210th annual Convocation ceremony this past Sunday. Following the invocation, Head Master Steve Murray H’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21 addressed the School in a speech entitled, “Stuck on a Rock, Midstream: Moments to Test Your Mettle,” inspiring students and faculty to take a more reflective approach when overcoming roadblocks this upcoming year.

Murray began his address with an anecdote referencing an adolescent experience that taught him an important lesson in life: to seek opportunities instead of waiting for them to arrive.

As a teenager on a canoe trip with his classmates, Murray “found the first glimmer of adult confidence that has served [him] much through [his] adult life.” When his canoe was punctured by an ebbing current while his group paddled upstream toward a lake, he “felt a sudden simultaneous realization well up inside”— a feeling of serenity and assurance in his ability to solve this unfortunate situation with those around him.

Reflecting on his experience, Murray said, “I believe that this kind of confidence is acquired, or rather earned, when our mettle is tested.” He encouraged students and faculty to “not wait for serendipity but to seek out challenges.” Whether it be through traveling, academic learning, or athletics, Murray believes that there are multiple niches where life-changing opportunities can be found.

Murray then shared the stories of two Lawrenceville alumni whose experiences further illustrated the meaning behind his advice. One alumnus found his confidence in a pivotal soccer match against The Hill School. Halfway through the game, the team was lagging 13 points behind its opponent. As the player began to lose hope, his coach said to him, ‘You got this, Ray. We need you in the game.’ The student’s coach’s words helped him believe in himself, an instance which Murray believes every Lawrentian is capable of seeking.

Yet, Murray also recognized that in order to pursue new and invigorating goals, the process sometimes requires students to reflect internally.

“The opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and test your mettle may be more inward-looking. It might involve confronting your assumptions or blind spots,” he said.

According to Murray, a certain situation can instantly change one’s ability to grow, depending on how one draws his or her circle of privilege.

“We resist recognizing our privilege because it is not easy to take a truly candid look at our actions and attitudes. We want to believe our own actions are justified,” he said.

Concluding his speech, Murray shared another anecdote on recognizing mistakes and utilizing them for self-improvement. In high school, Murray described how he had always maintained a positive reputation for being a kindhearted student. Yet in the spring term of his senior year, he learned a lesson that continues to impact him today. One evening, a group of his dormmates decided to ridicule a student living on the third floor of his hostel for a reason still to this date unknown to Murray. The students rushed into the victim’s room and soaked the area with water balloons, then running away.

“To this day, however, I am still ashamed that I participated in it. Looking back, I think I allowed myself to get carried away in the moment because, after all, I was a nice guy. I wasn’t a jerk until I showed myself that I was quite capable of being one,” Murray said.

Murray also prompted the School community members to consider their own blind spots and motivated students to understand what it truly means to become better social citizens.

“Working to be aware of your own advantages, and practicing compassion with others takes effort, but that is precisely what we need to be the kind of community we aspire to be. The real test of our mettle might lie in breaking down our personal defenses and taking an honest look deep inside ourselves,” Murray said.

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