Valentine’s Day

It’s that day again.

You know, that day where all the single guys, all the single girls, and most of the guys who are in relationships groan and complain about the dumbest of holidays. 

Valentine’s Day is only as important as your enthusiasm lets it. If you want to go all out to make someone’s day, then Valentine’s Day can be pretty fun. If you don’t care then Valentine’s Day just turns into another one of those Catholic martyr holidays about guys who died horrible deaths thousands of years ago.

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         I’m not lion when I say, it was harsh…

And those that detest the holiday find special irony in the fact that the patron saint of lovers was so well acquainted with pain and suffering. St. Valentine has widely been accepted by the church as dying after being imprisoned and tortured while visiting Rome (When in Rome…). That said, there are debates about nearly every detail of St. Valentine’s life; from what he did, to who he was, to even the question of if he was one person, two people, or no one at all. Then again, judging by the standards by which someone becomes a saint, I could be made a saint thousands of years from now after all the details of my life get confused and then glorified.

But I digress…

At CNU there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of students that view Valentine’s Day moderately. People either go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles, or they complain about people that go out to dinner, make cards, write sappy poems and light some candles on Tumblr.

But I would argue that, violent torture deaths and Tumblr aside, we should all embrace Valentine’s Day. The only downside to the day is the downside we make out of it (if we choose to). If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, this is your one day to ask someone out at random and you have no risk of making it look creepy. If they say no or look at you funny you just shrug and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”. Perfect cover: You’re just festive.

If you’re not ballsy, then use the day as a chance to catch up with the family. Call your mom, dad, sister, brother, cat and let them know that you care. I called my mom to say “hi” yesterday. I felt good afterward. You probably would to.

If you’re not ballsy and you don’t have a family then just go to the grocery store, pick up some chocolate fondue and some strawberries. Return to your home and proceed to dip the strawberries in the chocolate. Before taking a bite, reflect upon the beauty of the melted chocolate dripping off the juicy red strawberry. As you eat your chocolate covered strawberries, you’ll realize that there is always something to love on Valentine’s Day.

Service at CNU

                It was just this year that I took the position of Community Service Chair for Phi Alpha Delta (The International Pre-Law Fraternity). CNU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta is modest, but filled with people who have the common goal of getting into Law School. Phi Alpha Delta offers many different benefits for students looking to go into Law School, from unique visits with Lawyers, judges and Law School Admission Deans, to volunteering opportunities.

                Just this year I’ve worked to set up CNU’s Phi Alpha Delta with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. The Legal Aid Society offers legal assistance to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them with such legal issues as writing a will, getting a divorce, or bankruptcy assistance. I as well as a number of other Phi Alpha Delta members now volunteer at the Hampton office at least once a week.

                This type of service is beneficial on multiple levels. Not only do the Phi Alpha Delta members get real-world experience in a legal office dealing with real issues, they are also helping people who have a serious need. While I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering at the office I have done everything from opening and closing cases, to drafting letters for clients and I’ve even had the opportunity to sit in on an attorney-client meeting. The Phi Alpha Delta members and I have been able to learn, first-hand, how lawyer-client interactions take place, the kind of work attorneys do on a day-by-day basis, and we even get the chance to see what kind of civil law looks most interesting to us.

                In the mean time, we are helping people that would be helpless without us. The attorneys at Legal Aid have their hands full and anything that we can do to lighten their load gives them a chance to help more people. Some of these people are in desperate need of some financial relief through bankruptcy; others have had a bad split with their spouses that they want to legally move on from, some of them just want to make sure that what they leave for their children when they pass will actually go to them. The people that Legal Aid (with the help of Phi Alpha Delta members like myself) assists are so thankful that someone is willing to help them, that it is not unheard of that they get emotional when they thank the attorneys for the help.

                All service that CNU students partake in is meaningful, but it can be rare to actually see the positive impact that the service is making. I count myself as lucky and honored to take part in serving people in such a way that I can see the impact I make.

Complete

The simple pleasure of your company goes beyond simplicity.
Like the incomprehensible vastness of space, I feel overwhelmed.
Your eyes are hypnotizing and memorizing.
And I lose myself as I lose my balance and fall into your arms.

I’ve never known a heart to beat so akin to mine
With a passion I couldn’t conceive until I held you.
And when I kiss your lips, my joy threatens to burst forth
like fireworks of desire as loud as my laughter.

It’s with humility I must admit, I just can’t understand
How I could find myself with someone so beautiful,
Who loves me through the challenges,
And makes me feel complete.

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.

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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.

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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

…And We’re Back

There’s a big difference between January in Maine and January in Newport News, Virginia. As winter winds whipped over the rocky coast of New England, I spent my Christmas Break sleeping in, working now and then, and relaxing by the fire reading “Game of Thrones”.  I soaked in the relaxation while I could. I knew that when I got back to CNU, things were going to get tough fast.

I was right.

In the first full week of classes I turned in 3 papers, 3 page-long assignments, and I took two quizzes. The next week I have 4 papers due and at least one quiz to take. At the same time I have volunteering to do, work, and practice. If it sounds like a lot, I can assure you that it is.

As with each semester at CNU, the professors have high expectations of their students. My business professor is all about ensuring we get as much out of each class as possible, already she starts class a couple minutes early and goes until the very last minute, trying to give us as much information as possible while we’re there.

Over break I knew that I would return to late nights and early mornings. I didn’t think of it with dread or apprehension, on the contrary; I was excited to transition back to the intensity of academic challenge. By your sixth semester at CNU you know that you will get what you put in to the semester, give it your all and you’ll end the semester proud.

You’ll find everyone feels about the same when it comes to the beginning of the semester. You pass a buddy who was in your Honors class and ask him, “How’s your semester shaping up?” He’ll respond: “It’s going to be crazy. I’m going to be so busy.” You ask him, “you pumped?” to which he responds, “yup!”

In the eternal words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s get it started.”

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Sorry.