Repost: “Full Circle”

A few nights ago I was staying up way too late stumbling down the rabbit hole that is the Internet. On a whim I searched for a post I’d written at the beginning of 2009, just after AIESEC United States’ Winter National Conference 08-09, where my term as Local Committee President of AIESEC at Georgia Tech ended. Unfortunately the old AIESEC GT blog, where I’d written the post, was lost in Google’s scorching of all FTP blogs on Blogger. However, that particular post had been copied in full and re-posted on a range voting Yahoo! Group. Since I have just become online services director of AIESEC Life, the AIESEC US alumni association, I have decided to re-post that old bit of euphoric writing in full, for posterity. And maybe for the lulz too.


On the night of December 29, 2008, I was in a Zen state.

My former teammate and one of the greatest people I have been blessed to know, Tiffany Curtiss, was elected Member Committee President of AIESEC United States in the first free and fair MCP elections in twelve years.

I haven’t cried in a long time, but I came pretty damn close as Missy poured the water on her head and everyone cheered for Tiffany. What was clear to me, though, is that as much as we were cheering for her, we were cheering for the process, for student ownership, for having a voice. For having come so far just shy of six months after the July 4 letter.

The only thought that had space in my head after the bucket fell was back to the weekend of May 12-14, 2006, when I was told “you have no future in AIESEC US” by the top leadership after trying to bring people together and think for themselves. Instead of doing whatever college students do on the weekend, Tiffany and my AIESEC mentor and former LCP of AIESEC LC Cornell, Arthur Maas, spent the entire weekend on the phone with the key players in New York, and when they were talking about “next steps,” Tiffany was talking about right and wrong. Tiffany, of course, was right, and despite being right, her hours and hours on the phone that weekend got me back into AIESEC US. How incredibly appropriate, how it fits in with the music of the Universe. How justice was served and how progress was lifted up!

I turned off my video camera and I walked up to my room, alone. I could barely even shut the door before the immensity of what had just happened washed over me like a tidal wave. I gripped the table and I put my head against the wall. I closed my eyes and let the reality of it flow through every bit of my being. How years and even months ago, this moment was an unthinkable fairy tale – regardless of the winner of the election. I felt like I have not felt in an incredibly long time, and to the powers that put the breath in my lungs, I let forth in an exhale, “thank you.”

Words cannot express the pride I feel that Tiffany was elected MCP.

And finally, mere hours before my term as LCP ended, I was able to participate as a proxy for Milwaukee (Amira taking the seat for GT) in our legislation, where we established our first compendium in twelve years – and I am proud that I was a key part of writing it. I skipped sessions and I stayed up late to work on the constitution and accountability with Jason, and I personally spent the entire day after the election tweaking and perfecting the range voting process, which was one of the final motions we passed – by acclamation. Though it was hard work and it kept me from hanging out nearly as much as I wanted to with the people who matter to me and friends I haven’t met yet, I realized at the end of the conference how much more valuable it was that we spent our time on things that mattered. We did work together, we built the foundations of a new AIESEC US together. That was far better than anything else I’ve experienced at a US conference before, and I hope for the future members that it only grows and does not stop.

While banging the table to close legislation, we heard loud sounds from above – and through the skylights we saw the fireworks heralding a new year. We did it! And the fireworks let everyone know it.

Poetry upon poetry, the formal New Years Eve dinner that night took place in the exact same room as the plenary of the last Winter Conference in St. Louis. My LCP term ended in the exact same room in which it began. A year ago in that room, as we finished singing “Auld Lang Syne,” I thought to myself: “This is either the year AIESEC US will save itself, or the year in which it will be lost forever.”

I could never have pictured us in that same room one year later, triumphant. The truth is stranger than fiction.

A sincere thanks to all of the people who are a part of the fabric that has been my AIESEC Experience thus far. There are many of you to name, and rest assured you will hear it from me soon. But other than Tiffany, the person I must thank most of all is Missy Shields, outgoing MCP and former LCP of AIESEC at Georgia Tech. Without her AIESEC US would not be here today, and I would not be the person I am, plain and simple. She deserves adulation for years and years, and she will be a golden legend for as long as the word “AIESEC” spurs the heartbeats of people looking for a better future.

To you both: because you have changed me, you have changed the world. Hold me to that.


Getting It Off of My E-Chest

I just have to say this:


Even though I voted for Ralph Nader, the thought of what “could” come with Obama – not the starry-eyed pipe dream hopes of those who apply to the “cult of O,” but specifically the thought of finally getting universal healthcare, finally getting sex education that makes sense, a leader who has no preconditions for talking with other leaders, and most overwhelmingly importantly the prospect of what a new wave of science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM as the Obama campaign has branded it) can do for the country, for energy, and for the world (and of course for my own career path) has me more than excited. I’ve done a fair amount of studying up on this and all indications are, with the right mandate in the legislature, it’ll be a true new industrial revolution.

So, I just hope nothing happens to bring the predictions crashing down. I’d be an extremely sad engineer, a sad AIESECer, a sad American. And a sad person.

Letter to the Editor of the Technique: On Third-Party Voting in the United States of America

Two weeks ago I turned in my absentee ballot for the upcoming general election. I voted for Ralph Nader, an independent candidate, for President.

When I tell someone I voted for a third party candidate, they elicit a puzzled, jeering, or even hostile reaction. “Way to throw your vote away!” “A vote for Nader is a vote for McCain.” Only one person left it at “cool.”

How can such an attitude be adopted in the USA, where we claim to bleed and breathe democracy? What kind of a “free country” do I live in when I am verbally abused for my choice in any election? People are unable to see the whole picture or relate the ideals of our country, and even their own beliefs, to a more relativistic, free, and truly choice-based electoral system. Our parents, our friends, the media, the candidates themselves, and even our teachers prop up our imprisonment to the two-party system every day, at every meal, and during every news hour whether intentionally or not. Even the question “Are you voting for McCain or Obama?” reinforces the false notion that there is only a binary choice to be made when it comes to leadership and policy in the United States.

Nader is derided by Democrats for “winning the election for Bush” in Florida. Almost all of these critics are probably intentionally unaware that all eight third-party candidates in Florida each received over 537 votes, the amount by which Bush defeated Gore in the Florida election.

So why is Nader the bad guy? It is simply because he is the easiest person to target as the most prominent third-party candidate. As true Party loyalists, those Democrats were and still are unable to put responsibility on Gore for not even winning his own home state of Tennessee. They are representative of a huge, loud swath of voters (and non-voters!) who cannot or will not escape the two-party paradigm. Because people do not understand the third party candidates, it is their propensity to fear them, and they do not give themselves a real choice when they damn their own freedom by engaging in the Orwellian “duckspeak” of their precious Party.

A more representative voting system like range voting is the major key to breaking the illiberal monopoly held on power in this country. Until such progress can be made in our systems, I call on all US Americans to vote the way their heart tells them, not according to Party lines. Meanwhile, respect your fellow citizens’ right to choose their leaders for themselves. Freedom begins with you.

Unfortunately due to word count issues I had to delete the phrase about Orwellian duckspeak.