Opinion: In praise of mission statements

Mission statements like the Pledge of Allegiance show us a vision of what we want to become and give us an outline of goals to reach. We are not hypocrites for saying how we want to grow and change; we are hypocrites if we think we have no need to do so. (Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

For a brief period of time in middle school, I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance. When my peers rose to their feet to repeat the same pledge we had been reciting together since elementary school, I balked. 

“Why don’t you say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore?” a friend asked one day, his brow furrowed. 

“Because America is not perfect,” I replied self-righteously. “There is no ‘liberty and justice for all,’ so why should I pretend like there is?”

I was growing up in the Internet Age, ensconced in the preteen delusion that I knew better than my parents and peers because I had read strongly worded Tumblr posts about American inequality. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

Thank goodness I did not.

What I would later learn and come to realize over the next few years of my life is how much of our lives and our values are shaped by the pledges, mantras and mission statements we adhere to. Whether or not we are perfect at following them — or whether they accurately describe the state of affairs in our nation — is not the point: the purpose is for them to give us a path to follow.

Mission statements show us a vision of what we want to become and give us an outline of goals to reach. We are not hypocrites for saying how we want to grow and change; we are hypocrites if we think we have no need to do so. 

The Society for Human Resource Management says mission statements show the purpose and intention for an organization, communicating those values to their own group as well as to others. 

Saying mantras, a related practice to following a mission statement, is scientifically proven to be a source of well-being. In the article “Ancient Science of Mantras – Wisdom of the Sages,” author Srinidhi K. Parthasarathi said repeating mantras can actually remove obstacles to growth and advance individual progress and development.

Our intentions, therefore, guide us on our journey of becoming.

Christians subscribe to beliefs that allow them to emulate the life of Jesus Christ, the only perfect being. When someone identifies as a Christian, they are not saying they are a perfect follower of Christ: they are saying they want to work on becoming like Him. That is a mission statement.

Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I recited the Young Women Theme every Sunday. The words have changed since I was a teenager, but the message is the same: we are daughters of God, and we are striving to become like him. That does not mean every teenage girl growing up echoing this creed is just like God. It means they are seeking to become something greater than they currently are. 

We see this in our sacrament prayers too, where partakers say they are “willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.” Not “perfect at,” but willing.

BYU’s mission statement pledges to make the university a place “where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued.” We are not perfect at this, and the university has come under fire in recent cases of discrimination. Without making excuses for an imperfect university, I will say this: I love this school, and I believe in a university that commits itself to excellence and potential. I believe in what we are becoming.

Back to my stubborn 12-year-old self: I eventually started reciting the pledge again, first out of a reluctant obligation and finally out of the deep love and patriotism I developed in regard to my perfectly imperfect homeland. I learned that the pledge was written by author and minister Francis Bellamy as a strong expression of loyalty to his country and as part of a movement to spread American ideals to new immigrants. It was a mission statement for what he and others believed America embodied, and even more importantly, what they believed our nation could become.

I hear frequent criticisms of our Declaration of Independence, saying all people do not receive equal treatment the way the document promises. I propose that these ideas show a grand vision created by brave, overwhelmed Founding Fathers trying to create a new nation. I say these ideas show a mission statement for what we are in the process of becoming: a country that is already great and evolves to become more equitable, fair and just all the time. 

Now, when I say the Pledge of Allegiance — and other mission statements — I do so with pride. I am not pretending we are perfect. I am not pretending there is not more work to do in any of our lives. What I am doing is focusing on how we are all in a process of growing and changing. 

I wholeheartedly believe in what we have the power to become. 

— Gabrielle Shiozawa

Copy Editor

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