At the Weekly Assembly, Potomac’s Upper School is Treated to a Speech by TED Talk Celebrity Julie Lythcott-Haims

Ali O'Brien, Co-Editor-in-Chief

At the weekly assembly on Wednesday, April 27, guest speaker Julie Lythcott-Haims exhorted Potomac’s Upper School students to explore their passions, get to know themselves, and choose the life they want to live, even if it challenges the expectations of others. A bestselling author and popular motivational speaker, Lythcott-Haims began with a story from her time as the Dean of Freshman at Stanford University. One freshman was burned out by her parents’ expectations, which she was struggling to balance with what she wanted for herself. On one occasion, she asked the student how she was doing, to which the student replied, “I have a 4.0,” and shrugged her shoulders. Lythcott-Haims cast this as a cautionary tale that showed the importance of looking beyond academic performance as an indicator of intrinsic value, asserting that “you matter, period.”

Through this story and reflections about her journey through careers as a lawyer, dean, and now, a bestselling author, Lythcott-Haims offered guidance on drowning out the “cacophony”– the noise of outside voices whose judgment we fear– to lead a life driven by authentic choices. As individuals at the precipice of adulthood, Lythcott-Haims message to students to follow one’s own passions to take advantage of the opportunities of adulthood was underlined by a quote from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver that she included at the end of her talk: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”