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The other day, I felt compelled to check the website for my high school’s student newspaper. Since arriving at Dartmouth, I hadn’t paid any attention to current events at my old school, and I was curious to see what changed during my first five months at college. Sports highlights, interviews with teachers, movie reviews — typical high school journalism filled the paper, until I stumbled upon an article titled, “Valedictorian and Salutatorian titles will no longer be offered as GPA recognition during graduation.”
The “WELCOME HOME TWENTIES” sign hanging on Robinson Hall is one of the first things that incoming Dartmouth students see on campus. Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” and Red Foley’s “Salty Dog Rag” are the first songs that they hear at the beginning of the Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips. And Cabot cheese — lots of Cabot cheese — is often the first food that students taste when they arrive in Hanover. But once the busses get back from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, students begin to hear a different trope, a less upbeat and more serious story of the adversities that lie ahead.
Remember five years ago, when the most popular television comedy characters on Saturday Night Live were Bill Hader as Stefon and Kristen Wiig as Gilly? Seth Meyers would introduce Stefon, who would recommend absurd places to go during the weekend, leading the two to end the sketch holding back tears of laughter as Gilly obnoxiously wreaked havoc in her elementary school classroom. Today, lighthearted comedy has evolved into politically centered comedy.
This past Sunday, author and software engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing a horror story of sexual harassment and corporate failure at Uber, the massive ridesharing company. Fowler, who now works at the payment processing company Stripe, had worked for a year as a site-reliability engineer at Uber. A cursory look at her personal website quickly reveals that she’s — to use the industry buzzword — a “rockstar.”
According to statistics from the Department of Defense, fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces while less than seven percent of the population have ever served in the military. Of the country’s veteran population, approximately half are over the age of 60. More elected officials in the United States have never served before than at any prior time in our history while the shrinking pool of families that shoulder the burden of armed service are disproportionately generational fighters hailing from middle- and working-class backgrounds.
To my friends on the right:
In a 1963 interview with Life magazine, the newly widowed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reflected on her husband’s days in the White House. “At night before we’d go to sleep, Jack liked to play some records; and the song he loved the most came at the end of this record.” The record she referred to was the soundtrack of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s broadway musical, Camelot.
My grandfather, known in our family as Pop-pop, left today after a two-week visit. Every year, he makes a pilgrimage to this part of the family in California, where he soaks in rays of sun that leave his pale skin riddled with basal cell carcinomas. Around twice a year he has these blemishes wiped off his body with blasts of liquid nitrogen. What is left are white scars the color of the moon.
As anyone close to me knows, I love talking politics.
My mom vividly remembers the protests of 1989. She remembers the energy of the crowd as they chanted for the end of the communist government, young men and women like her yearning for a change, the glint of red, yellow and blue as protesters waved the Romanian flag with pride and the feeling of unity and belonging as she stood there in a crowd of thousands standing strong against a common enemy.
This past weekend, students at the University of California, Berkeley protested “alt-right” journalist Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned talk. What began as peaceful demonstrations quickly became violent protests. A group of people — who may have been students — set fire to buildings, allegedly attacked Yiannopoulos’ supporters and advocated far-left ideas that contradict the tenets of our democracy.
The 2016 election was unprecedented. The fact that I can say “Donald Trump is the President of the United States” without being asked what I’ve been smoking is something that would have been nearly inconceivable four years ago — or one year ago. But the Democrats lost. They lost an election that very easily could have been theirs and are now faced with being the minority in the House, Senate, Executive Branch and soon the Supreme Court. Understandably, much Democratic soul-searching has occurred in recent months. Many feel a need to determine where the party failed during the 2016 cycle, and many different explanations have been floated. However, I believe it comes down to a relatively simple fact: the Democrats ran too many candidates who were old and, generally speaking, lacked charisma and a dynamic campaign presence.
All presidents — no matter their background and experience — are infinitely unprepared for the world’s highest office. That maxim of presidential fitness was still true when the junior senator from Illinois took office eight years ago. But former President Barack Obama inherited a Congress with a Democratic majority and a willingness to push through a progressive agenda, a willingness not fully realized since the Great Society of the 1970s.
Colorblindness: a cartoon.
One of my earliest memories of President Barack Obama was his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, back when the Democratic Party still preached straightforward, persuasive ideologies. I was only a 6-year-old back then, but the memory of his message that night still lingers on with me. That eloquent message of optimism and hope, unity and patriotism, unselfish motives and unfaltering strength. It wasn’t even his election, but it certainly seemed so; Obama spoke for his party’s candidate — then-Sen. John Kerry — but it almost seemed he was offering his own story and his vision for the first time.
One has to wonder at the fortitude of winter’s merrymakers. From the depths of January, on evenings worn black by nights already eight hours old, you can observe something strange. Scurrying about Webster Avenue in the freezing cold are spectral lumps. These creatures mill over icy roads and through weather-biting winds, and a stench of beer incubates beneath their heavy winter layers to be released as a heady perfume upon arrival at some familiar destination … The cold air often invigorates these inebriates, and it is perhaps at this moment that one of the creatures recalls those now indelible lines from College President Phil Hanlon’s Moving Dartmouth Forward plan: “Our vision is for Dartmouth to be a place of around-the-clock learning.” The student grumbles, to no one in particular, “Around-the-clock what?” before continuing a jumbled march onward, unsure about what this sentence could mean in a world as cold and confusing as ours.
Did you know that three out of ten millennials do not know who Josef Stalin was? Or that only two out of ten recognize the name Mao Zedong? It is these sorts of horrific statistics that give shame to America and its next generation. And these are not due to the blatant ignorance of these 18 to 34 year-olds, but rather because those first two things I said were completely false. I just made them up.
For many Dartmouth freshmen, winter break is a time to reflect on the past term while relaxing with family and planning for the terms ahead. It is a much-deserved period for rest and introspection. And, of course, a time to watch Netflix.
I didn’t expect to be on campus on Dec. 30, 2016. Instead of trudging up Mount Cube, I trudged up the stairs to my third floor dorm, kicked off my overboots and microspikes, dropped my frame pack and, well, cried.
Of all the leaks of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s personal emails, one that attracted the least attention in the end was her description of having both a private and public stance on Wall Street. Clinton was articulating something deeper here: the idea of politicians having differing — perhaps untruthful — personas in public. In itself, this is not a bad thing. As long as public promises are kept, or there is at least an attempt to keep them, I see no reason to care about a politician’s personal beliefs. That said, this notion of a divided identity can only work when it is not public. And keeping it secret is increasingly improbable in a time of hacks and leaks — those grown-up offspring of yesteryear’s tabloid journalism. Today, politicians’ private lives are fair game for the public eye — but so are everyone else’s.