by Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior
Do good anyway.
. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be
shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest
Think big anyway.
. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
. People really need help but may attack you if you do help
Help people anyway.
. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in
Give the world the best you have anyway.
The Paradoxical Commandments, often attributed to Mother Teresa
and others, were actually written by Kent Keith in 1968, when
he was 19, a sophomore at Harvard College. They were part
of The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student
Council, his first booklet for high school student leaders.
Here is how it all came about.
a senior at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, Kent was heavily
involved in student government. He was student body president
and also president of the Honolulu High School Association.
He was excited about the challenges of leadership and good
Because Hawaii did not have a student council leadership workshop
to train student council leaders, Kent founded the Hawaii
Student Leadership Institute, which held its first session
in the summer of 1966. This was the first leadership workshop
for high school student leaders that was founded and run entirely
by high school students.
went on to attend Harvard. During his four years as an undergraduate
there, he gave more than 150 speeches at high schools, student
leadership workshops, and state student council conventions
in eight states. These were the turbulent sixties, when student
activists were seizing buildings, throwing rocks at police,
and shouting down opponents. Kent provided an alternative
voice. In his public speaking, Kent encouraged students to
care about others, and to work through the system to achieve
change. One thing he learned was students didn't know how
to work through the system to bring about change. Some of
them also tended to give up quickly when they faced difficulties
or failures. They needed deeper, longer-lasting reasons to
saw a lot of idealistic young people go out into the world
to do what they thought was right, and good, and true, only
to come back a short time later, discouraged, or embittered,
because they got negative feedback, or nobody appreciated
them, or they failed to get the results they had hoped for."
recalls Keith. "I told them that if they were going to
change the world, they had to really love people, and if they
did, that love would sustain them. I also told them that they
couldn't be in it for fame or glory. I said that if they did
what was right and good and true, they would find meaning
and satisfaction, and that meaning and satisfaction would
be enough. If they had the meaning, they didn't need the glory."
his sophomore year at Harvard, Kent began writing a booklet
for high school student leaders that addressed both the how
and the why of leading change. The booklet was titled The
Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council,
and it was published by Harvard Student Agencies in 1968.
The Paradoxical Commandments were part of Chapter Two, entitled
laid down the Paradoxical Commandments as a challenge,"
Keith said. "The challenge is to always do what is right
and good and true, even if others don't appreciate it. You
have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don't,
many of the things that need to be done in our world will
never get done."
revised the booklet and a new edition, The Silent Revolution
in the Seventies, was published by the National Association
of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in 1972. Somewhere
around 30,000 copies of the two editions were sold in the
late sixties and early seventies. Kent also wrote two other
booklets for student councils. The Silent Majority: The Problem
of Apathy and the Student Council was published by the NASSP
in 1971, and Now You're in the Middle: A Handbook for the
Student Council Adviser was published by NASSP in 1972.
after publication of The Silent Revolution, the Paradoxical
Commandments were used by student leaders in speeches and
student newspaper articles. Over the past 30 years, they have
spread throughout the country and around the world. Find out
more about Dr. Keith on his website, paradoxicalcommandments.com