GUEST COMMENTARY: How does competition touch your life?

2012-05-30T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: How does competition touch your life?By Keira Amstutz
May 30, 2012 12:00 am  • 

I have a challenge for you: Think of one aspect of life that doesn’t include competition.

Each day, in any number of ways, we engage in competition, usually standing together or standing apart based on the sides we choose.

That’s why Indiana Humanities has launched “Spirit of Competition,” a two-year celebration and examination of competition and the role it plays in our culture. Because competition touches us all, we all can join the conversation, coming together to talk about issues that join and divide us, help and hinder us, and define us as individuals and groups.

Spirit of Competition will take us across the state for events, exhibitions and discussions. And Indiana Humanities is inviting you to get involved, to contribute to the conversation and enjoy the activities Spirit of Competition will highlight in 2012 and 2013.

In the course of this journey, we look forward to talking with you about how competition affects our daily lives. How does it propel us forward, and how does it hinder us? We’ll have a lot of fun, but we’ll also ask challenging questions: Do we put too much emphasis on competition? Are we more affected by its positive models or its less-desirable attributes? Does our economic system rely too heavily on winners and losers, or does the competitive marketplace spur new ideas and efficiencies?

As we consider these and other questions, we’ll examine five core elements of competition: civility, rivalry, passion, innovation and failure. We’ll ponder great stories from our past – everything from Abraham Lincoln’s bare-knuckled political campaigns to the invention of the television, and from the epic Larry Bird-Magic Johnson match-up to the founding of Eli Lilly and Co. – and discuss the role of competition in our daily lives.

We’ll also look at the ways competition informs our culture through art, literature, music and more, and we’ll challenge students, teachers, community leaders, businesses and other organizations to think, read and talk about competition.

This process is well under way. The Spirit of Competition traveling exhibit already has begun its two-year trek across Indiana. On our website, we’re sharing thoughts from well-known competitors such as professional billiards player Jeanette Lee and IU men’s basketball coach Tom Crean. Our Novel Conversations lending library includes books on athletic, political, economic and social competition. In addition, we’re working on events and activities that will bring the Spirit of Competition discussion to you.

So, join us on our website (, and watch for us in your school gym, museum, library, local festival, county fair or sports event. We’ll invite you to play a game or two, talk about your favorite contests, read about great moments in competition, and more. And we’ll challenge you to take a fresh look at the way competition shapes and defines you, and the way it connects you with or separates you from the people around you.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for us. Go ahead and get the conversation started in your community. After all, who doesn’t want to be first?

Keira Amstutz is president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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