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We were only three hours into our first day of programming, yet I found myself eating lunch across from a woman who’d been working at the Heritage Foundation longer than I’d been alive. At the moment, she was answering a question regarding the Heritage Foundation’s recent lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security. The Heritage Foundation was concerned about the truthfulness of Prince Harry’s visa application to the United States, since he had admitted in his recently released memoir to using drugs in his twenties. They said that they were concerned about fairness in the U.S. government’s visa approval process–a claim I seriously doubted considering their general aversion to ethical U.S. immigration policy.
Yesterday marked the first day of spring – a season known to many as a beacon for cleaning out the old and ringing in the new. In the spirit of celebrating fresh starts, the North Carolina Democratic Party’s recent transition in leadership serves as a prime example. The Party’s leadership elections, which were held last month, drew national attention because the incumbent candidate for chair –who received endorsements from all of North Carolina’s big Democratic names– fell short to a younger, grassroots organizing candidate named Anderson Clayton. At 25 years old, Clayton now serves as the youngest state Democratic Party Chair in the country and as the youngest ever to hold the position of chair in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s 195 year history.
I’ll admit that the title of this piece is directly inspired by Susan Glasser’s current column for the New Yorker. Every Friday, Glasser relays a summary of the most soap opera-esque political happenings of the past 7 days in Washington. In her well-oiled, snappy tone, she often leaves the reader with an almost tangible sense of fear regarding our country’s ever weakening grip on sanity, morality, and/or democracy. Some would argue that a healthy amount of fear about the current state of political affairs is well warranted, and mind you I do not completely disagree. However, if given the chance, I will not hesitate to frolic to my heart’s content underneath the cherry blossom trees that frame Washington’s National Mall – all the while sipping on an objectively overpriced iced coffee and doing my best to embody Scandal’s Olivia Pope.
Objectively, I’m a big North Carolina fan. The state features the sprawling Blue Ridge mountains, home to the hellbender salamanders who inspired How to Train Your Dragon; the gorgeous Outer Banks coastline, historic waters of the infamous pirate Blackbeard and his escapades; and my longtime favorite chapstick company, Durham’s very own Burt’s Bees. I have come to know this hodgepodge assortment of facts from growing up in the state, through random tidbits I’ve gathered over years of conversations with family and friends alike. But something I’ve also learned growing up here is what North Carolina glaringly lacks: an equitably funded K-12 public education system.
It’s that time of year again: college admissions season. Parents are stressing, high school counselors are grinding, and 17-year old seniors are rewriting their 500-word Common App essays to better encapsulate their entire personhood. Oh, if only I could go back! Not too long ago, we were in their shoes and, as fate would have it, we were all accepted to Duke, made the decision to enroll, and are in the midst of spending the next four (or so) years of our lives here. According to the extremely credible, undeniably toxic world of YouTube college decision videos, all of us Duke acceptees were among the lucky few who were victorious in earning a coveted spot at an “elite” academic institution. We should congratulate ourselves on building a strong application where we presented ourselves, our accomplishments, and our ambitions in a compelling way–but were all of us honest in the self-depicted identities we laid out in our applications?
Like approximately 400 other upperclassmen students, I arrived on campus this August 15 days before classes began to be an Orientation Leader (OL) for incoming first years. As OLs, we were required to show up a week before first year students moved in to attend a laundry list of in-person training sessions. Over that time period, the OLs-in-training learned everything you could put into a crash course on being a student at Duke – from riding the wave of safe alcohol consumption to the ins and outs of accessing mental health resources on campus. Out of all the training sessions we sat through, however, there is one that struck a chord with me that’s continued to weigh on my mind long after I oriented new students.
One of the best parts of being a Duke student is having a free subscription to the New York Times. Seriously, I am obsessed with it. If you have not yet taken advantage of this life-changing Duke student perk, I encourage you to do so immediately. Here is the link in case you are interested. Now, once you’ve signed up for the New York Times (Did I mention it’s free if you’re a Duke student?), I strongly recommend reading Opinion writer and Sanford School of Public Policy professor Frank Bruni’s appropriately titled piece “One of America’s Most Seductive States Is Also One of Its Scariest.”