Hey Stanford fans.
This past weekend my grandmother came all the way from New Jersey just to visit me. It was her first time ever being on Stanford’s campus, so I showed her around.
We made our way to the Main Quad to go see the chapel, and as we approached it we passed a group of six statues, each of a distinct individual. Intrigued, my grandmother asked what they meant, and I answered that I didn’t really know.
So we decided to look it up together. The six statues are referred to as the Burghers of Calais and are the work of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Their creation was Rodin’s way of honoring and remembering an important, historical event in French history.
The story begins in 1347, during the Hundred Years War. The English, led by Edward III, were invading the coastal town of Calais. Philip VI of France initially ordered the city to attempt to hold out as long as possible, but eventually the city ran out of supplies and had to surrender.
Edward III offered to spare the city if six of its leaders would give themselves up, assumingly to be executed. He demanded that they come out with nooses around their necks and the keys to the city in their hands. These sculptures depict the six individuals, led by Eustache de Saint-Pierre, as they are walking out to their imminent doom, giving themselves up to save the rest of the city.
Who knows what kinds of thoughts could be racing through their minds at this time. Rodin leaves that for his audience to reflect on based on the varying poses of each statue (In the end, the six people were spared by the queen of England at the time). But whatever the interpretation, no one can deny the self-sacrifice that they gave.
What can we take from this?
History is all around us, and we are all a part of it in some way. I’m lucky to be a part of Stanford, a university filled with one of the richest histories that there will ever be. I’m grateful to be involved in a basketball program that has seen the likes of Jennifer Azzi, Kate Starbird, Susan King (Borchardt), Candice Wiggins, Jayne Appel, and, of course, Nneka Ogwumike.
Now it is our turn to leave our mark, our turn to determine how we want to be remembered. It is in our hands.