Thoughts on Leadership: By Patrick Oathout


Patrick Alva Oathout


Hometown:Houston, TX, USA 

Major: Double Major: Public Policy & Philosophy

Leadership Experiences:Duke Student Government, Executive Vice President, Duke Colloquium Fellows, President and Founder, Spent thesummer in Amman, Jordan teaching English to refugees, Columnist for the Duke Chronicle, Point Scholar

Thoughts on ‘Perseverance’: In the midst of planning a community event at the refugee resettlement organization, Church World Services, an Iraqi refugee proposed we play the “Ring Game.” The goal was for one chosen player to locate, among a crowd of observers, a ring held in a clenched fist. The other interns and I struggled to master this seemingly simple game, until one of the older Iraqi refugees spoke in profound and articulate English, “To succeed you must use psychology—the eyes tell much more than a clenched fist.” I learned an important lesson while working with refugees at Church World Services through Duke’s pre-orientation program, Project Change. I realized the foundation of all success was associated with psychology, and that a deontological, intention-based approach to a problem would always prevail over a misguided effort. The rest of that week I would continue to be astounded by the wise words of those refugees. I ended Project Change with a single desire: to continue my involvement with refugees throughout my undergraduate years at Duke. I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from the refugees at Church World Services; my original intentions helped me persevere through the demanding nature of refugee policy. I take comfort in knowing that an optimistic attitude, over a stubborn, clenched fist, will help me find that ring of success.

How do you model the values that are important to you though leadership? I express my leadership through my actions and my rhetoric. In all my actions, I seek to exemplify my values in my perseverance to complete a task. But, leadership is not just about actions, because an important part of leadership is inspiration. While my actions can often inspire others to persevere, my rhetoric is another important way to convey my values associated with leadership.