‘Excellence’ Challenged

”Excellence is soaring together to reach our height for the common good of our society.” 


Two weeks ago, I was taking my residential requirement courses at the Oxford Graduate School.   My sociology class professor, Dr. Matthew S. Vos read an article he wrote on “Excellence.”  It reads:

“I am fed up with excellence.  It is everywhere and nowhere.  Googling the word produced more than 100 million hits.  Even incorrect spellings yield hundreds of thousands.  Claims of excellence surround us.  It can be bought; it can be sold.  We boast of it in our schools, workplaces, and churches.  We attach it to catch phrases promoting our hospitals, middle school athletic programs, and mass produced restaurant food. ……  While collaborating on drafting a philosophy of education statement for a college, a well-intentioned colleague piped-up, “Make sure you throw the word ‘excellence’ in there somewhere…. Why excellence?  It did not change the substance of our statement….Shouldn’t excellence be its own testimony? The current version of excellence is a displacement of goals….”

Dr. Vol is not trying to be the devil’s advocate and preach laziness.  He actually thinks ‘excellence’ is a very good thing but was concerned about the fact that we are ‘chasing down excellence’ limits our lives for we lose balance and ‘excellence’ becomes a displacement of goals.   As we go after our individualistic dreams, excellence and its single-minded pursuit have a dark side that makes us lose the balance we need in the multifaceted demands of life.

Since I was thinking of the October Women of Excellence celebration, I was very curious how he redefined ‘excellence’ and asked my prof, “When will the pursuit of excellence be the right thing according to your definition?”  Dr. Vol answered, “When our individualistic pursuit is substituted with the social good, then no one will be diminished.”  He continued, “I am not against excellence at all but when individual’s life is not lived fully for the sake of achieving the highest, when excellence for children would not include qualities which build a balanced childhood, when the claim of excellence by organizations are mismatched with healthy life styles, that is where I see a problem.”

In the light of embracing excellence with the common wellbeing, I have found the five women selected by AWiB to be celebrated in the year 2017 to be indeed “Women of Excellence” due to their pursuit of life with others’ in mind.  This year’s women of excellence include1)  Anna Getaneh – a designer and a model with altruistic heart with entrepreneurial spirit; 2) Ellene Mocria – an expert journalist and media trainer, a positive change maker; 3) DR. Momina Mohammed – persistent dreamer, breeder of professionals, and  4) Professor Yalemtsehay Mekonnen – an acclaimed scientist, mentor, and a coach; 5) Lidya Tafesse – a pioneer referee and passionate role model.

Each one of them have personal stories of knowing their worth, resilience, focus, service, passion and others in mind. They are all equally recognized to be excelling in their sphere of leadership, profession, or business contributing with the best of their ability.  Moreover, they are women of character who served their community.  Their life was not limited to reaching their pinnacle.  Rather, they were invested in making the world a better place to live in the different sectors they were serving.   They uplifted their communities when they soared.

When excellence is not defined as achievement in our activities, school or office work, which many of us may be achievers, and extended its meaning to soaring together to reach our height for the common good of our society, then we promote societal excellence.

What is your take from their lives?

Let us come and celebrate these gems on October 29, 2017 at Sheraton Addis!

Seble Hailu
October 4, 2017