St. Norbert College
St. Norbert College
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ted FlemmingThe path I have taken, both in education and vocation, began before I was born. All the credit for who I am today goes to my family.  My sister was born four years before me and a doctor’s error means she will forever be at the developmental level of an 8 or 9-year-old child.  Make no mistake, she is not my soapbox.  What she is, however, is the most important person in my life.  Growing up alongside her was the reason I became whatever it is I am today and was the inspiration for what I hope to be in the future. Neither a summarized explanation nor concise description of that experience can offer the real picture.  But I can tell you what I learned; I have come to believe the only worthwhile life is one lived for others.  I have never considered, nor will I ever, an education or vocation path that wasn’t a reflection of that principle.  I have made the greater good and the public interest the focus of my purpose in both arenas.

It’s easy to rank work on some perceived nobility scale but I respect the entire spectrum of vocations.  In my most idealistic moments, I believe that people can make a difference to someone in whatever paths they choose or in whatever light they decide to stand .  But I’ve come to believe that living a life of service to people in general is a foundation for a life well-lived.  I’m not an overtly religious man, but I believe life - and through cause and effect, happiness - is gained by giving it away.  We give it away by choosing a path of service, whether striving for some monumental societal change or by the simple gesture of extending a hand to help someone along their journey.  My work hasn’t as much helped shape who I am as much as it has reinforced who I think I am, or who I want to be.  I like to think that this person I want to be is helping shape how I approach my day-to-day efforts.  Everyone probably wants to have an impact on the world around them, and I see those people every day.  Doing remarkable things anonymously, their only real reward is what they award themselves.  My pursuit of an education and a public interest law vocation will hopefully make it possible for me to make an impact without sacrificing what I believe in.

I studied Psychology and Sociology at SNC because I sought an advanced understanding of what drives people at an individual level and society on a cultural level.  Taking it a step further, what interested me most was seeking an understanding of how those drives either enhanced or inhibited reaching the potential of the individual and, by extension, of societies.  For humanity to advance, it seems to me, we must begin by optimizing individual potential.  My studies at SNC helped reaffirm my awareness of just how much this world might be broken.  But, perhaps the most significant lesson I took away from SNC was that there is remarkable opportunity for us to start to fix it.  The theme of “service” so prevalent at SNC became part if my personal direction.  At the end of the day, we should all be working to bridge the gap between “what is” and “what should be.”  For until we have all made it, none of us have made it.

Social work is not the only profession that is truly a “vocation,” but I think the fact that I have such a strong calling to it makes it seem more so to me than some careers.  My psychology and sociology studies helped me understand what defines us, and graduate work in social welfare will hopefully help me apply those definitions to a broader world.  Perhaps a glutton for punishment, I’m now seeking a law degree in public interest law so that I might take my calling to what I believe is its highest office – to use the law to advocate for the public good. 

My values, obviously shaped by my faith, give me pretty strong convictions about what is right and true (though my family says it comes from a Boston Irish Catholic ancestry).  Regardless of where those values came from, the work I’ve done and hope to do is certainly an extension of them.  I have faith in humanity, and I believe that there is a better path than the one followed in too many areas of the world.  Realism suggests the difficulty of clearing a better path, yet idealism recognizes the value of taking the one less traveled.  With my education and through my work I simply hope to strive for an opportunity for a more meaningful life to anyone that seeks it. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, or even several, and practicality would have me believe I never will.  But what sets me apart is that I refuse to accept that as the final word.

Teddy Fleming '07


Faith, Learning & Vocation

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