Cur Non

“Cur Non” means “Why Not.” It is a famous quote by Marquis de Lafayette and is a motto at Lafayette College, my alma mater, named after the French hero of the American Revolution.

When the 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette asked the King of France to finance his journey to assist in America’s fight for freedom, the King refused. Lafayette defied his king to follow his convictions. He secretly purchased his own ship, crossed the ocean, and joined the cause for American liberty.  He became a major general and fought alongside patriots, forging deep ties with George Washington and other Founding Fathers. His journey to this young republic redefined the course of his life and marked the start of shaping history on two continents. These experiences gave birth to a philosophy that would guide him so profoundly, he eventually had the words, Cur Non, emblazoned on his family crest.

Cur Non is a rally cry. Why Not. Why Not have the courage to live boldly. Why Not engage in every aspect. Why Not be ourselves; work hard; do the right thing; take pride; even swallow our pride when needed. It is a mantra of empowerment that inspires confidence and resilience. It creates champions, advocates, mentors, leaders, doers.

Cur Non challenges the status quo. It can move us from our comfort zone. The Humvee is a result of Cur Non. A 27-year-old designer answered the critics who told him a military vehicle can’t look like a sports car, with “Why Not?” He eventually convinced leadership and changed the world of military vehicles. A changed world is often the result of a Cur Non attitude. If it were not for Cur Non, we might be speaking the King’s English.

Cur Non is acknowledging far more possibilities than the unintentionally limits we set. It is a question, but also a declaration, a statement of strength. It’s about standing tall in the face of fear, uncertainty, doubt, even hesitancy. A ‘Why Not’ mentality means being open to life’s opportunities, even when they fall outside of our comfort zone. ‘Why Not’ can be about ownership. Instead of pawning off a task to someone who is ‘better qualified,’ ‘stronger,’ ‘wiser,’ etc., we take it on. Instead of thinking we’ve done enough, we push to do more. Learn, explore new ideas, challenge the norm, and promote fresh thinking. Why Not say yes.

Let’s be clear, a ‘Why Not’ attitude can also be negative, carried too far or perceived as rude depending on the context and tone. It can be a sign of arrogance and there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Saying ‘Why Not’ with self-awareness and an open mind is very different than saying it from a black and white perspective or being dismissive. ‘Why Not’ should be an exercise in dialogue, an invitation for others to reply and debate.

In 2012, Russell Westbrook, the NBA star, founded his Why Not? Foundation. Their goal is to empower the underserved population and at-risk communities by implementing structured educational opportunities, workforce development and accessible mental health resources. The foundation focuses on inspiring the lives of young people, teaching them to always ask themselves, “Why Not?” and help them to build the resilience to never give up. They state that by creating a ‘Why Not?’ mindset it sets children and their communities up for success.

Two young women from Kentucky, Ashley Raymer-Brown and Rachael Yeager, decided to make a full-length feature film. With severely limited funds, little to no resources, and no experience, they relied solely on their faith in God, grit, and determination. They embraced the “Why Not?” mentality. Their first feature film, “No Lost Cause” became an award-winning and internationally distributed film. The film came to life with the help of God, family, friends, some strangers, and their own dedication – all after their declaration of “Why Not.”

St. Paul knew that trials and tribulations where to be expected in his journey. He accepted them with a “Why Not” temperament. He had the courage to live boldly in his witness to Jesus. He acknowledged through Jesus, far more was possible. His epistles inspired confidence and resilience in the early church. In Paul’s first letters to the Churches of Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:7) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:15), he challenges them to ‘Why Not’ put up with injustice and even let yourselves be cheated. Instead ‘Why Not’ seek what is good for each other and for all. Wait for the LORD, who will help (Psalm 27:14).

‘Why Not’ trust God and His Plan, His Timing. ‘Why Not’ see past the trials and tribulations of our own lives. ‘Why Not’ believe God will see us through it all. ‘Why Not’ step out of our comfort zone to do God’s will. ‘Why Not’ love and serve others.

“Why Not?” – because otherwise we might miss out on what God will do for us!

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