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The Cornellian in me would love to say yes outright, no thoughts, just unadulterated (bordering on obnoxious) Cornell/Ivy League pride. I was steered “gently” towards the Ivies while I was in grade school, partially of my own volition, and even in the way of relationships I’ve been steered that way. Yet having emerged from Cornell with my pretty degree, a lot more knowledge than I when first entered, and a lot of debt to prove it, was it all worth it? Could I have just gone to another school, maybe a state school, maybe a small liberal-arts college and gotten the same experience? Probably not, but it would have still been a profound learning experience, just not quite a “Cornell” experience, or an experience at any other Ivy. Brilliance (supposed or otherwise) is brilliance any way you dress it and any way you treat it, it’s ideal to give it the right environment to grow, but if you’re really smart, you will thrive anywhere.
Really what is an Ivy League school? What is the Ivy League. The Ivy League actually denotes an athletic league, but has become synonymous with academic excellence associated with the schools in the Ivy League. They are the storied institutions, some dating back to the pre-colonial era, and have boasted (and continue to boast) and impressive list of alumni. Cornell alone has produced such people as Keith Olbermann (absolutely my favorite Cornell alum ever), Bill Maher, Janet Reno, Kurt Vonnegut, and many others who I will purposely leave out *cough* Ann Coulter *cough*. Being in the Ivy League means having insanely good connections to the top tiers of business, medicine, law, politics, engineering, film, whatever it is that you’re looking to do. There’s a certain degree of exclusivity, earned or not, that comes with that Ivy League title. But at the end of the day, at the end of your time in college, you are just another wide-eyed (or perhaps disillusioned?) kid with a degree and many memories.
Are Ivy Leaguers better than everyone else though? Hardly. Sometimes I think I’m stupider than most, when it comes to the most basic things. Sure I can rattle off a whole bunch of facts about human physiology, disease, neurology, and what not…but explain to you the nuances of mortgages? Tell you how to fix a car engine? Hem a pair of jeans? You know…normal things? That’s a whole other story. This is not to say all Ivy Leaguers come out book smart but wholly incapable of living normal existences, but I’ve seen enough people who veer in that direction to verify a trend does exist.
This is an article a friend sent me a while back that I think really sums this up nicely:
They cited the case of Al Gore and John Kerry, Ivy-educated, but unable to connect with America as a whole. Well George W. Bush was…in a manner of speaking…Ivy-educated…you know what, let’s not even go there. Fast-forward to today, where the Columbia and Harvard-educated Barack Obama is staring down John McCain, just a few places shy of being last in his graduating class at the Naval Academy. Barack Obama, however, is one of those Ivy graduates who have managed to avoid morphing into one of the inaccessible, patrician elite. While sharp and intellectual, he still exudes a warmth and friendliness that draws people in, rather than turn them away. He still seems interested in learning about what everyone is up to and how he can help them, not just the state of affairs of the rich and brilliant, which is probably what makes him a truly successful Ivy League graduate. I’ve seen too many people cloister themselves with only like-minded Ivy Leaguers (or other top tier school grads), and lose sight of the rest of the world that exists out there…equally brilliant and capable, in different ways, but sans Ivy League degree.
But if you get that Ivy League acceptance, don’t let it go. The resources and connections are incomparable, just don’t lose sight of the fact that there is still a lot of learning you can do outside of the Ivies, and that you need to do. At the end of the day, you are also just another person with a dream, among other people with dreams that need reaching. If you are in a position to give them a little push in that direction, all the better.
As many of you know, Colin Powell recently endorsed Barack Obama for President.
Indeed Colin Powell is in a very unique situation. He is a Republican, a decorated general, and Bush 43′s former Secretary of State. He had previously supported John McCain during his 2000 bid for the presidency, and even now considers him a good friend. Yet now he has thrown his support behind Barack Obama, the candidate of the opposing political party. It’s almost reminiscent of Ted Kennedy’s endorsement way back in May, despite a long-standing political and personal relationship with the Clintons. So again the question must be raised, why Obama, Mr. Powell?
His response was possibly the most eloquent piece of speaking I have heard from him, and brought together a series of well-thought out reasons for supporting Obama. Ultimately, he cited the direction in which the Republican party was headed as a primary reason for his choosing Obama. Between the smear campaigns against Obama and the ever-present insinuation that, somehow, being Muslim was still equated with something malignant and unwanted, Colin Powell saw the Republican party he knew drift into increasingly unfamiliar and undesirable territory. Now the Republicans are increasingly claiming that race, not politics, played a primary role in Colin Powell’s decision. Rush Limbaugh, the noted conservative radio host, went so far as to reiterate that point several times on his program.
Ok, in all actuality, one can’t deny that at least to a slight degree, race played a role. Powell admitted it himself. Yet he also said that the role race played was very minimal, ultimately the issues trumped race in the end. He had been undecided even as late as last month, if race was really the reason, then there would have been no doubts.
For me, what really drew me in was his argument about the whole “Muslim” issue that had become increasingly prevalent in McCain’s rallies. Muslim is the new “red” with all of the connotations and the fear associated with it. McCarthyism resurrected, now “McCainism.” Even when he attempted to quell rumors that Obama was an Arab, as suggested by a woman at one of his rallies, his response was “no, he’s a decent man…” as if being Muslim was somehow indecent. So to paraphrase Colin Powell, “so what if he is [a Muslim]?” I have many Muslim friends, all of whom are brilliant, witty, and driven individuals. So what if they run for the White House? Should they be blacklisted because of their faith? The answer (should be): a resounding NO. Heck, if I run for the presidency, what with me and my supposedly “pagan” Hindu faith, should I be blacklisted? I sure hope not. Let the record show there is a Muslim senator, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, and as far as I know, he’s doing a fine job.
So Colin Powell’s remarks did not serve the original intention, that is to make the Republican party turn its eyes back on itself and scrutinize its current path carefully. Instead, it spawned a series of unnecessary insinuations and tantrums that, somehow, race was the only factor that played into his decision. This is the state of the Republican party today, sorry to say. Let’s hope that some among their ranks will start the soul-searching, and maybe help lift the party out of the mire into which it has willingly fallen.