‘At my very best’ by Dakotah Jennifer

Senior Dakotah Jennifer, a Danforth Scholar and a senior majoring in English in Arts & Sciences, recites her poem “At my very best.”

The people we love,
The people who impact us, make marks on our lives,
Leave something behind.
The love they’ve given: the acts of kindness, selfless gestures, favors, and check-ins— all of these things pile up, creating memories, leaving warmth in the chests of others.
It is this warmth, this altruism, and friendship, that I have found in these four years through the legacy of Dr. Danforth.

Gratitude is a funny blessing.
We mourn the person who is gone and nearly forget about the reach of the compassion, kindness, they left.
Gratitude does not stop the moment we forget it— our lives can be forever changed by only one moment of thanks. One thank you sent up into the air to a person whose life just nearly passed you by, for creating a space in which you feel whole.
It is gratitude I have now for Dr. Danforth.

Kindness is not only the precision of amiability.
Kindness is about giving with no expectations, showing up with no motives, smiling when everyone else is frowning.
Everyone can be nice, but not everyone can be kind.
Kindness is a gift given out unsparingly, that can mean unthinkable joy, peace, safety, to another. It is kindness I have found among the Danforth Scholars.

Being loved by people, being supported and seen, makes a special kind of mark.
The Danforth community has made me feel loved every day of my college career, and I see that not only as a privilege, but a gift from Dr. Danforth himself.
The way I see it, this scholarship— these people who I consider family— would be unknown to me if it were not for Dr. William Danforth and the legacy he has left.
Dr. Danforth has left behind something tremendous here— more than a campus or a program or a portrait— but love. community. The opposite of silence.

The people I love the most here at WashU
The people who hold my hands, my heart, even in the times I feel silly
stupid, unscholarly
I only know them because of Dr. Danforth
Because of those who knew him.
Because of the legacy he left, the love that stayed in the air even when he had gone.

I am reminded, constantly, by that air— by Dr. Danforth’s name and legacy,
that who I am when I am alone, when I am not perfect or proper or the WashU scholar. When I am dakotah jennifer, the small black girl who just wants a home, a family, in this far away place,
Is okay.
This community, my community, reminds me that I do not have to be perfect,
I do not have to be the smartest or the bravest or the happiest to be
My own self
at my very best
all the time.

I do not have to be anything but me, trying.
Because as long as I am striving to be better,
As long as I am doing all I can, loving as hard as possible, attempting to make a difference, anywhere
I am my very best.
We are all at our very best when we are seeking, striving, reaching for that.
We must not stress ourselves on being the best but on trying to be better, always.
Striving to be louder, stronger, braver, smarter, kinder.
So we can make a mark on the world in the way Dr. Danforth has.
So maybe one day, the love we leave will reach even those we have not met or those we have only smiled at while passing by on campus.
Dr. Danforth is more than just a man, he has created so much love here, so much light, and he continues to every day.
I could never stop being grateful to him for that.
I could never stop being my very best, even if just for him.

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