What Matters to Me & Why


What Matters to Me and Why

History | Upcoming Speakers | Past Speakers

What Matters to Me and Why is a presentation and discussion series featuring Stanford Faculty and Administrators addressing life questions.

The purpose of What Matters to Me and Why is to encourage reflection within the Stanford community on matters of personal values, beliefs, and motivations in order to better understand the lives and inspirations of those who shape the University. The presenter is encouraged to share how s/he has chosen to live her/his life, the core values s/he has adopted, and the personal choices s/he has made. We also encourage the presenter to choose any other topic that fits her/his definition of “what matters to me and why.”

What Matters to Me and Why is a creative solution to an important and sometimes unrecognized problem in the university setting.

“Somehow, intellectual life gets separated from personal and spiritual issues,” reflects founder Quintus Jett. “The idea [behind What Matters to Me and Why] came up in a conversation with Rev. Floyd Thompkins while I was president of the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA): to bring in professors to talk about these aspects.”

“Another speaker was Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the birth control pill. He read some of his poetry, and talked about being a scientist and an artist, and … talked about his daughter, who committed suicide twenty years ago. In the question and answer period someone asked him about his daughter. There was a deep silence; you could still feel the pain, after twenty years.”

The experience can be as powerful for the speakers as for the audience. One says: “I felt better about myself because of presenting. I was happy that the reaction was so favorable – I wasn’t sure it would be at all. There’s a spirit of both accepting and inquiring that I like; accepting in that there’s tolerance of difference, inquiring in that there’s a real searching for what matters and why.” An audience member adds: “The setting generates momentum for a discussion of values … and it encourages people to understand others. When I’m listening I suspend my own perspective in order to really hear the presenter.”

The series has touched people even beyond the confines of the university. It has brought Stanford alumni back onto campus, and introduced local residents to another side of Stanford. According to a fan letter from New Mexico:

“The series has added a great deal to the intellectual integrity of the Stanford community, in my opinion.”

Jett concludes: “Ultimately, something like this survives on just the feeling it creates. For me, it was something that was worth taking a risk on.”