Living in America

I tried living in America,
the home of the free,
but the people there were greedy
And the government didn’t work for me.

I couldn’t go to college,
I didn’t have the cash.
The wealthy called me lazy
as they increased their stash.

And the churches on the street,
they tried to pull me in,
I expected a warm reception,
but all I got was sin.

When I asked them what was wrong
I received a strange look.
They called me un-American,
they got so angry that they shook.

I died living in America
country of the brave
it could have been so great again
if we thought it was worth a save.

Leading at CNU

I’ve found that groups and organizations around CNU are always looking for people to take leadership positions. In fraternities, singing groups, volunteer organizations, and sports teams, leaders are always valuable and desirable. I feel lucky to have become deeply involved in various organizations. In my commitment to these organizations I feel a closer connection to my fellow members and the CNU campus.

I am currently fulfilling my final requirements for CNU’s Leadership Minor. Through the classes I have taken in the subject, I have been challenged to look at organizations and groups through the lens of leadership. This doesn’t just involve watching the president of every organization, this involves focusing yourself to push the organization to be better regardless of the position you are in.

In Phi Alpha Delta (the Pre-Law Fraternity), Trebled Youth (an A Capella group) and even in CHECs (the student judicial appeal) I have seen some of my peers step up to take positions when there is a need for them. In high school it was always frustrating to see individuals pursue leadership positions for the glory or the resume-fodder. At CNU I have seen responsible people take on leadership positions when they see a need, and they feel that they can do the best job. It is for this reason that many of CNU’s clubs and activities are very well-run.

The most visible way that this leadership maturity can be seen is in students’ willingness to take positions like secretary, and treasurer in a group and still deliver their 100% even if the position does not offer them bragging rights. I have seen students defer greater leadership positions that they want to other people that they think can do a better job because they want what is best for the organization.

If you have members of student groups and organizations that care as much about the group as the president of the organization then you have a highly effective group. CNU is filled with these organizations. If you take your time to find a group that follows the same passions that you do, you will find that you become a leader in the group in no time at all.

Scalia: A Love Story

“Forget about state rights. They’re gone!

If there was a list of phrases to never say in the state of Virginia, this one would probably top the list. Yet, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t seem to mind much about his audience. When he visited CNU on October 18, 2012 to speak with students, he pulled no punches. Antonin Scalia is appointed to the highest court in America for the remainder of his life. He doesn’t have to worry about embarrassing himself and losing prestige or his job. He doesn’t need to worry about getting reelected. This freedom from societal pressure allows Justice Scalia to be honest and sincere, as well as entertaining. He was easily smartest person in a room full of 1200 educated people.

To the chagrin of all the professors present, Scalia downplayed education in favor of luck and character in terms of its relation to success. “Good luck beats early rising,” he said at the 3pm Student Q&A sessions, during which invited students had the opportunity to candidly ask the Justice and his companion, Judge Henry Hudson, questions. At the evening event he quoted his father, saying, “You can hire brains by the hour. The only thing not for sale is character.” His emphasis on the importance of character and luck stood out in a speaker series that focuses primarily on the importance of leadership through education and making good connections.

What was immediately striking about Scalia was his youthful energy and his enthusiasm to speak his mind. Scalia acted like a man twenty years his junior and had a mind that was as sharp as can be. The short, stocky, overtly Italian Scalia doesn’t need to stand over you to be an imposing figure, but when he cracks his smile and starts speaking, it is clear that he is as easy to talk to as a favorite professor. While many students walked into the events of the day with misgivings and expected a stuffy, unapproachable judge, Scalia’s openness and sincerity helped everyone to relax and enjoy the talks. One line that he used, both at the private Q&A session and at the public talk later that night, laid out why he became a lawyer. He was not initially sure he wished to go into law but his Uncle Vinnie—and “every Italian has an Uncle Vinnie”—was a lawyer so he thought he would give it a go.

Whataya tawkin' about?

Whataya tawkin’ about?

Despite the fact that Scalia has not always been in the majority in the court, and he admitted that his constitutional theory of interpretation is not as widely accepted in the U.S. as he would like, Scalia did not come across as someone who stays up at night worrying about the future of our country. He knows what his place is in the government and when he was asked about his opinions on specific policies he responded by saying, “I am a policy eunuch. They write it. I review it. That’s it.” Echoing the tone set by Chief Justice Roberts in the recent healthcare decision, he explained that the Supreme Court doesn’t decide whether a law is a good one or a bad one. Rather, their job is to decide whether it is constitutional or not.

Regardless of whether or not students agreed with Scalia’s interpretation of the Constitution, everyone seemed to enjoy the man’s presentation. Perhaps this was because it was so clear that he was having a blast with us. When President Paul Trible stepped onto the stage to signify the end of the evening’s Q&A session, Justice Scalia declined to step down, saying, “I’m having such a good time,” This was met with a rousing round of applause that one might expect for an encore performance at a Mumford & Sons concert. His sincerity and obvious love for what he does helped students warm up to the man, even if they still disagree with his opinions.

If nothing else, Justice Scalia represents the pinnacle of success, which he said means, “being the best at what you love”. His definition of success was one that does not rely on power or money or promotions. It is one that emphasizes the importance of character and enjoying what you do. This standard of success is one that every CNU student strives to reach, and is fully capable of obtaining. In this and many other ways, Justice Scalia was the perfect speaker for the President’s Leadership Program and the student body of Christopher Newport University as a whole.

 

CNU Snow

On the 25th of January it snowed at CNU. Being from Maine, I can tell you that the white fluffy stuff doesn’t exactly thrill me when it falls and covers the ground like the coldest of blankets, but since it’s such a rarity in Newport News, people go nuts. I swear, when people around here see a snowflake it’s like it’s Apocalypse 2012 all over again (In other words, everyone posts Facebook statuses about it for a while until the novelty runs out).

Around the city cars drive more slowly and cautiously (for good reason). Many cars lack snow tires and the drivers know that their 0-60 is far less important than 60-0. Businesses shut down in the area, and some students get their classes canceled (but don’t always count on it). Everyone walks a bit more briskly and the smokers even try quitting for a couple days because they can’t stand the cold. You’ll often see kids traveling in packs, walking close together to conserve heat like penguins in Antarctica.

snow4

That said; snow on the CNU campus is beautiful. When it’s falling outside you could curl up with a cup of hot chocolate in Einstein’s or if you live in York East or West you can utilize those fancy fireplaces in the lobby. The fountain freezes over and the basketball court disappears, the roofs of the academic buildings are white and the campus is quiet because everyone is staying indoors as much as possible. In between classes, after a thick snow has fallen, the campus is peaceful and still. If you look over the Great Lawn you might not be able to tell that within the buildings are thousands of young excited people bursting with the energy and drive to be the best that they can be. I often think that if there is a metaphorical winter the world faces today, it will be the likes of CNU students that will bring the spring.

Israel in the New Middle East

In mid-December 2010, a notoriously unstable part of the world erupted into chaos. Throughout the Middle East, protestors took to the streets demanding democratic reform and the end of dictatorial regimes. Every country in the region from Algeria to Iran has been affected by this movement in some way, and near the geographic center of this sea of change is a country that is negatively viewed by a majority of the mid-east population: Israel.

Image

In August of 2011, while the Arab Spring was in full swing, Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki warned that, “Zionists and Israel are the first and biggest beneficiaries of this whole process,”(Schmidt, 2011). Though the Arab Spring presented an opportunity for Islamists to move into political spaces that had, until that point, been closed to them, the changes also reflect an opportunity that Israel and other countries could take advantage of to advance peace in the region.  Joseph Szyliowicz, a professor of International Studies at the University of Denver and Sigurd Neubaur, a defense and foreign affairs specialist out of D.C. expressed the view that the Arab Spring presents an opportunity for closer diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey; two of the few nations in the region that were not rocked with protests and upheaval. They argue that closer ties would be mutually beneficial due to an increased support-base for Israel and increased international sway for Turkey (Szyliowicz & Neubauer, 2013). It is possible that what Szyliowicz and Neubaur predict could happen in Turkey might also happen with other countries in the region. Though some of the democratic movements in the region have resulted in Islamist leadership, these groups are at least moderated by the fact that they are largely pro-democracy, such as Tunisia’s al-Nahda party (Al Jazeera, 2011). Where Israel is one of the few truly democratic countries in the region, there are questions of whether democratically elected Islamists will be more pro-Israel.

Egypt is an important example. The central target of the protests that took place in Egypt seemed to be Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader, rather than Israel. However, the changes in Egypt could prove very negative to Israeli influences. Before his removal, Mubarak was a counter to Iranian influence in the Middle East as well as a nearly unconditional ally of the United States and Israel (Flamini, 2011 pp. 216) Now, Mubarak has been replaced by a largely conservative-led government with Mohamed Morsi at the helm and the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood (Kirkpatrick, 2013). This is significant to Israel because the Muslim Brotherhood is made up of Islamists who are generally opposed to Israel’s existence. In 2012 during a short conflict between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian leadership was put in a tight spot between their treaty obligations to Israel, such as the 1979 peace treaty, and the Brotherhood’s ideological connection and support with Hamas (Fleishman & Abdellatif, 2012). Though Egypt eventually filled the role of mediator during the conflict, it is uncertain where it will stand in future Arab-Israeli conflicts.

That said, there have been important indicators of the power of anti-Israeli groups since revolutions and government overthrows have taken place. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government is still having trouble executing on its own agenda due to internal pushback (Kirkpatrick, 2013). In Jordan, on Wednesday January 23, elections are to be held with Islamists largely sitting out the election. Of 1,400 people running for seats in the Jordanian government; only 22 are Islamist (Luck, 2013). With Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu poised to win a third term in the coming elections (Aly, 2013), and all the changes that have been going on in the Arab world, it could be argued that the only thing holding Israel back from peace with its Arab neighbors could be the far-right ruling party of Israel itself.

As the fallout from the Arab Spring continues to impact the Middle East, Israel’s certainty of safety could change dramatically for good or ill. For the time being, evidence suggests that the Arab Spring has not negatively impacted Israel yet, and that there is a possibility of progress toward peace in the Middle East if the new governments in the region are willing to talk to the older governments in the region.

Sources Cited

Aly, B. (2013, January 21) On Eve of Israeli Elections, Arab Spring’s Influence Still Uncertain. AhramOnline [online] retrieved January 22, 2013 from http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/62967/World/Region/On-eve-of-Israeli-elections,-Arab-Springs-influenc.aspx

Fleishman, J. & Abdellatif, R. (2012, November 14) Israel’s killing of Hamas military chief leaves Egypt in Quandary. LA Times [online] retrieved Janaury 22, 2013 from http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-israel-hamas-egypt-quandary-20121114,0,5883238.story

Kirkpatrick, D. (2013, January 19) Brotherhood Struggles to Translate Power Into Policy in Egypt. The New York Times [online] retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/world/middleeast/brotherhood-struggles-to-exert-political-power-in-egypt.html?pagewanted=all

Luck, T. (2013, January 20) Islamists to sit out Jordanian election. The Washington Post [online] retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/islamists-to-sit-out-jordanian-election/2013/01/19/c78b61e4-6194-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html

N/A (2011, March 1) Tunisia’s al-Nahda to form party. Al Jazeera. [online] retrieved January 22, 2013 from http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/03/201131132812266381.html

Schmidt, M. (2011, August 18) Iraq Leader Says the Arab Spring Benefits Israel. The New York Times [online] retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/world/middleeast/19iraq.html?_r=0

Szyliowicz, J. & Neubauer, S. (2013, Janaury 21) A New Era for the Eastern Mediterranean? CNN.com [online] retrieved January 22, 2013 from http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/21/a-new-era-for-the-eastern-mediterranean/?iref=allsearch

With A Little Help From My Friends

I’ve had many close friends over the course of my life. When I came to CNU I hoped I would make many new friends along my journey to becoming all I could be at the University. I never knew that within a week of moving in I would discover what would be the biggest impact of my CNU experience:

I met my best friend Michelle.

I know I’ve used this picture before.

Make no mistake, college can get very challenging at times. Like zubats in a dark cave in a Pokemon game, you will encounter all-nighters and scheduling conflicts with frustrating frequency. When you get really gung-ho at the beginning of the semester and take on much more than you are actually capable of, it usually doesn’t hit you until midway through the semester, at which point you find yourself lost and angry crying, “What have I done?” like Anakin in Revenge of the Sith.

At times these, you need someone to make you feel better about yourself, someone who cares about you, someone who’s willing to sit down and listen to you vent about whatever has got you stressing. Since your mom can’t go to college with you, it’s your best friend that comes to your aid.

In a way, a best friend is like family that you’re not related to. I’m an out-of-state student from Maine, so my family is even further away than most of my peers. This makes Michelle an even bigger impact on my time here at CNU. She’s the second sister I never had.

At CNU every student faces challenges, and every student at some point will feel truly victorious. When I’m stressing over a Spanish test Michelle offers to go through flashcards with me, when I get a call from a potential employer, she’s there to celebrate with me.

As anyone who’s ever been to CNU will agree, it’s not just about the classes that you take. This University has more to offer than small class sizes or the best rated residence halls in the state. This University has soul and it comes from the people in it, from the dining hall staff, to the faculty, to the friends you’ll have for a lifetime.

The Commons

Upon being invited into the oasis paradise that is Timone and Pumba’s home, young Simba is introduced to a diet of bugs. Timone assures Simba that the food is “Slimy, yet satisfying.” This Lion King quote can be attributed to the food in most college dining halls, but not so at CNU.

Fig. 1: A meal not offered in the CNU dining halls

At CNU we have two dining halls, each very unique and sporting distinct and different options from one another. On a day-to-day basis I can check the CNU website to see what’s on the menu at Regatta’s and what’s on the menu at the Commons. Often times the decision can be difficult.

Being a tremendously busy college junior, often times my choice comes down to where I can get food quicker. I live closer to Commons, and so it is usually my first pick. On a regular basis I find myself long-boarding the distance from my residence hall to the Commons, weaving in between backpack-laden students, my mouth watering with the thought of a juicy burger or one of the buffalo chicken wraps they make right in front of you.

Something about college makes people really hungry all the time. I, along with just about everyone else I know, was warned of the dreaded “freshman fifteen”. I wasn’t exactly apprehensive about this, but it turns out that at CNU, they actually give some meal options that make avoiding “the fifteen” much easier.

Commons has a “Healthy Haven” in which you can always find vegan options, low-fat meals, and gluten-free stuff. I know you’re probably thinking, “Really? You’re trying to talk up the health food?” but I am entirely serious. The healthy haven food is always really tasty and always fresh. There’s nothing that makes me feel better about eating healthy than when the food tastes delicious. Two words: crab-stuffed tilapia.

However, heed my words of wisdom: There are times of the day when everyone goes to the dining halls, specifically, midday during the week. Remember this:

Commons at noon.

On the plus side, the place will be stuffed with wonderful people that will be among your closest friends. The dull roar you hear will be the sound of hundreds of hungry and happy captains chowing down on some of the best food Newport News has to offer.