It’s a matter of choice. Our decisions define us.

“Ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?” 

It isn’t enough to have such great ambition because if this ambition wouldn’t lead to any contribution, it also leaves no significance at all. This line became one of the most striking for me which also happened to be the theme of the movie, The Emperor’s Club.

Professor William Hundert is a passionate and principled Classics professor at St. Benedict’s Academy for Boys. Moreover, he strongly believes in molding his students by using principles. Mr. Hundert’s world is doing perfectly fine and his students were exemplary, not until Sedgewick Bell walks into his classroom. Sedgewick Bell, the son of a senator from West Virginia, turned Mr. Hundert’s world upside down. His tightly- controlled world was shaken and inexorably altered because of Sedgewick’s existence.

Sedgewick keeps on contradicting the principles imposed by Mr. Hundert and he has influenced his classmates to violate rules and regulations. St. Benedict’s Academy became chaotic because of him. But Mr. Hundert didn’t gave up. He saw that Sedgewick has a potential that’s why he did everything to push Sedgewick to the top. On the elimination for “Mr. Julius Ceasar”, Mr. Hundert surprisingly sees a changed Sedgewick, one who actually started working hard in his studies and over-achieves his expectations. This is the reason why Mr. Hundert chose to alter the results of the top 3 finalists, allowing Sedgewick to be a part of the competition instead of Blythe.

While watching this scene, I thought it was kind of unfair for Blythe but maybe Sedgewick deserves a chance to prove himself. I thought everything’s going better, but no, I was wrong. Sedgewick blew up the chance because he decided to cheat. Though Mr. Hundert kept the incident to himself, the trust and respect he had developed for Sedgewick has been broken. He felt like he failed as a teacher especially because he compromised Blythe just to be able to make way for Sedgewick. That single decision haunted him for years.

Fast forward to twenty five years after, all of Mr. Hundert’s students were already successful in their chosen fields. Sedgewick then organized a gathering between his batch mates at St. Benedict’s Academy and held a rematch for “Mr. Julius Caesar”. It’s like a history repeats itself kind of thing. Sedgewick was then again caught cheating so Mr. Hundert asked a question where in he was sure Sedgewick couldn’t answer. Sedgewick then again landed as second place. After the rematch, Mr. Hundert and Sedgewick engaged in a pleasant conversation which Mr. Hundert used as a chance to confront Sedgewick. Sedgewick became defensive telling Mr. Hundert that he doesn’t care about his principles because he is living in a life where people do what they do to get what the want. Sedgewick forgot that it isn’t living that is important, but living rightly.

We always choose to blame fate or destiny for our wrong choices and decisions. Sometimes, we use fate simply because we don’t want to blame ourselves of the consequences of our actions. We’ll say that it happened because it is destined to happen and it’s what fate has to offer us. We also use fate as an excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making it happen. But I do believe that life isn’t really supposed to be a matter of chance, yet a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, but a thing to be achieved. We shouldn’t just wait for what is bound to happen. If we want to attain something and if we want to correct something, we must act accordingly to that. Just like what I said earlier, great ambition isn’t enough if this will have no contribution at all.

Mr. Hundert hoped too much that Sedgewick will change and that he was right to believe in him all those years ago but he was proven wrong. Although Sedgewick may have failed Mr. Hundert, his other students were proofs that he was still a success. This story shows us that the worth of our life is not determined by a single failure or a solitary success.

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Catherine is a 20-something BS Nutrition student of the University of the Philippines, but her heart screams for the art. She is a freelance creative and model, an artist and a writer, and an advocate of human rights and the environment.

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