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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

Motivational phrases for finals 

Throughout the years, my voracious appetite for politics and history has led me to come across a wide array of slogans, phrases and soundbites that for one reason or another have stuck with me due to their significance, effectiveness or messaging. To me, they are comforting phrases that provide me with motivation, inspiration and hope to finish off whatever task is at hand. In my mind, if they were good enough to be spoon fed to the masses, they should be able to do the trick and motivate me. As finals week quickly approaches, I hope these help in one way or another. 

  1. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre! - This phrase, belonging to renowned Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, translates to “Until Victory Always!” It was included as part of the sign-off to a private letter sent to Fidel Castro upon Guevara’s departure from Cuba in the mid 1960s, and is easily one of the most identifiable phrases used today by the Latin American left. Although I do not sympathize with either of these men, nor endorse their beliefs in the slightest, I find this particular phrase a source of continual inspiration to keep on working towards the emerging victorious over whatever challenge that lies ahead. A victory against what, you may ask? That’s the magic of the phrase: its sheer universality. It could be a victory against a messy dorm room, the dining hall’s dinner rush, a treacherous job hunt, the search for an SYR date or a grueling Investment Theory exam. 
  2. No hay victoria sin lucha!, or “There is no victory without struggle,” belongs to former first lady of Argentina Eva Peron. Evita, as she is affectionately called, is widely remembered for being a tireless activist on behalf of the interests of the Argentine working class. This phrase, extracted from a letter exhorting Argentine women to fight for their right to vote, reminds you that in order to overcome any challenge one must first put in the necessary effort to make it possible. 
  3. Paciencia, prudencia, perseverancia, or “Patience, Prudence, Perseverance,” has been written on my dorm room’s whiteboard since I began college. I learnt the phrase from my grandfather, who wields an impressive knowledge of Spanish phraseology. This phrase is an invitation on how one should live their life, embracing these three virtues to avoid being caught off guard while always having what it takes to forge the path ahead. 
  4. Que no me retenga el pasado, y no me atormente el futuro or “May the past not retain me, and the future fail to torment me” is another of my grandfather’s phrases that has stuck with me to this day. I see it as a call to live in the present and avoid holding on to grudges of the past or clouding one’s mind with concerns about the future. After all, it is the present that gives us the opportunity to figure things out. 
  5. “Now is the time for guts and guile” is one of Elizabeth Taylor’s most famous sayings. It serves as a good reminder that one should make strides to always work with courage, cunning and smarts at the helm. 
  6. "Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’” comes from my favorite book “The Count of Monte Cristo.” It is similar in essence to number four, but draws special significance to me because it encapsulates the wonderful story found within the pages of one of Dumas’ masterpieces beautifully. 
  7. No se me raje mi compa comes from a song written during the days of the Nicaraguan Revolution, a clamor for perseverance, commitment and conviction. Although hard to translate, it best does so as “Don’t Give Up, My Brother,” and is yet another good phrase to instill the need to carry on. It also has been on my whiteboard since I started college back in the fall of 2019. 
  8. Obras … no palabras or “Deeds, not Words,” was a slogan used by the Nicaraguan government between 1997 and 2002. It was used to highlight the government’s campaign to develop the country’s infrastructure and rebuild after Hurricane Mitch swept through in 1998. It promotes the value of getting things done over vague promises that amount to nothing. It is a good call to transform one’s ideas into tangible, meaningful activities. 
  9. Soy responsable del timon, pero no de la tormenta, or “I am responsible for the helm, not for the storm” is one of Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo’s most memorable phrases, in the final year of his presidency as Mexico’s economy teetered on the edge of collapse. I have relied on this phrase for several years, and even included it as part of my graduation speech back in high school. Despite belonging to one of Mexico’s most controversial presidents, when put in a vacuum, it becomes a call of reassurance. After all, we are only responsible for the things under our control, and must do our best to weather the storms around us with our resources alone. 
  10. “When the curtain falls it is time to get off the stage and that is what I propose to do” was said by British Prime Minister John Major after having led the Conservative Party to its most devastating loss in over a century. Even in the throes of such stinging defeat, Major acknowledged his fate with dignity and grace. I really like this phrase because it is an invitation to know when it is time to move on to new endeavors, and to not hyper-fixate on adverse outcomes. 

Although this column is quite unconventional for me, dear reader, I hope you find in it a shred of inspiration as finals roll around. Best of luck to everybody!

Pablo Lacayo is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in finance while minoring in Chinese. He enjoys discussing current affairs, giving out bowl plates at the dining hall, walking around the lakes and karaoke. You can reach him at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.