I will be working with Miah Sherman on the issue brief and advocacy campaign. The policy we picked was the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. This bill has a section that opened Native American holy lands to mining. There have also been problems with federal and state governments taking water from Navajo nation. Within this issue brief we could include information about what is currently occurring in Standing Rock.
My summer ended on a cloudy day in the middle of a lake with an audible pop. I lay curled on top of the choppy water, clutching my knee that made the noise every athlete dreads to hear after losing my balance while water skiing. In extreme pain and unable to bear weight on my knee, my parents immediately drove me to the hospital where my fears were confirmed: I had torn my ACL. I was given instructions to return to the orthopedist after the swelling had diminished to schedule surgery, and was in the meantime given crutches to help me get around.
I looked at the crutches with a critical eye – two sad-looking metal props with rubber crosspieces to use as handgrips. I had never used crutches before, and boy was I in for a surprise. I remember my mom saying I looked like a baby giraffe: wobbly, unstable, and unable to properly work my new means of support. Instead of giving me increased independence like I thought they would, my crutches held me back. I could no longer keep up with my friends and required help to climb stairs, carry books, and open doors. No matter how many times I washed my hands, I couldn’t even get rid of the smell of sweaty rubber.
However, one of my dear friends encouraged me to look on my crutches with gratitude. She brought to my attention that if I didn’t have crutches I would be confined to bed, unable to attend school, my team’s games, or even physical therapy. I took her advice and began to appreciate my crutches. Instead of cursing my tottering, time-consuming gait, I praised the fact that I was mobile and didn’t have to be carried. The crutches inspired increased effort at physical therapy, as I gradually increased the amount of weight I could put on my knee. I worked towards the day I could walk unhindered, and as strong as before the injury. About a month and a half after surgery, my physical therapist cleared me to walk without the help of crutches. I was ecstatic – although I still had a considerable amount of rehab ahead of me, I was free to bounce up the stairs without restraint and skip around in the rain.
I believe in crutches, in having something to help you hobble through dark nights into bright mornings when you can run again. Whether it’s a physical crutch you can hold in your hand, a person with whom you can have meaningful conversations with to help you cope, or an activity that gets you out of a sinking set of moods, these means of support are essential to walk the often-long road to recovery. I can’t imagine living my entire life depending on crutches, but they helped sustain me when I was vulnerable and supported the weight I couldn’t carry by myself.
The first idea I thought of when hearing about the “This I Believe” podcast was that I believe in the importance of being alone. I haven’t been able to think of a specific story about myself that illustrates this concept, but ever since I can remember I’ve consciously taken time out of my day for myself. I feel that there is a definite difference between being lonely and being alone, and during this time alone I can recharge and be my purest self. My second idea for the podcast is that conversations are what makes people strong. This belief was formed after I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus waterskiing five days before the start of my senior season of field hockey. I found that what helped me most was not surgery or physical therapy, but instead talking with people who had been in the same situation.
With regard to my passion blog, I am going to switch my topic from the one I previously used. Over the summer I blogged about different aspects of fear, including how to identify fears, conquering them, and what we learn from fears. At the beginning of each post I incorporated a bit of one of my personal experiences with fear, timing it so that each part of my story coincided with the topic that blog post focused on. However, my story ended with the final blog post. This is the main reason why I am going to switch topics. Two ideas I have for this semester’s blog are an informational blog on some of the national parks around the country or an experience blog about different activities around Penn State. I think the latter idea is better, as prior to writing each blog I could attend a different event sponsored by the university such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Banquet, hockey game, or theater production. I would subsequently provide analysis and reflection of each experience. I could improve this semester’s passion blog by talking less about myself and being more engaging to the audience. At the final post I don’t want to close the blog series so I can continue if I wish to. My biggest goal is to write each blog with sufficient time before the due date so I can edit multiple times and have some of my peers look over it.
After looking at the list of potential civic issues, one idea I have is to blog about climate change. With this topic I could discuss the increased visibility, the effectiveness of the green movement and various other policies. I would also be able to discuss the role that Penn State has in such an issue, as well as what various other universities have done to face this issue. My second idea is to blog about liberal arts education. I am personally interested in this topic because I am pursuing a double major, one in the sciences and the other in the liberal arts. I would find it intriguing to learn more about the values of a liberal arts education and why some people believe that the sciences and liberal arts are “irreconcilable.”
July 14, 1789. A day celebrated as a national holiday by the French to remember the storming of the Bastille. July 14, 2016. A day the world will remember for a terrorist attack in Nice, France that killed 84 people.
It is always difficult for the media to report on unfolding tragedies such as the one in Nice, France. In the first few hours, new outlets try to decipher the truth from hysterics in order to make sense of the attack and fill the aching void felt not only by citizens in the town or country affected, but people around the world. We have an innate human need for answers, and year for a face to put to what has happened. However, we must be wary of what the media says because facts are often mixed with fiction early on.
No single media source should be trusted in the first few hours following a tragedy. There are countless examples of times where the news has gotten facts wrong in major events, whether this be that there were multiple shooters at Virginia Tech in 2007, sharks swimming in the streets of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, or that the shooter’s brother had been the shooter at Sandy Hook. This last example is something a listener needs to be extremely careful of, for it is difficult to replace a name or face with one that is accurate after you already have one set in your mind. One should also listen to key words throughout news coverage during a tragedy. The phrase “we can confirm” is much more likely to be accurate than the phrase “we are receiving reports”. The first sentence conveys the impression that the information has come from multiple reliable sources, while in the first sentence the facts have not been confirmed. It is also important to remember that the news given to listeners is not a conspiracy. It is just that breaking news is truly “breaking”; not all the facts have been ascertained.
In the articles I read, the information about the terrorist attacks in Nice, France seemed to agree with each other. This may be because they were released long enough period of time after the shooting to contain the most accurate information. However, with this tragedy, as with any other, one must always remember to take in new information with a grain of salt.
“We are Virginia Tech.” Nikki Giovanni, an English professor at Virginia Tech, began her poem with this sentence, repeating the phrase an additional four times throughout the entirety of her 89 second address to grieving students, professors, and staff packed in an over-capacity basketball arena. Just over 24 hours earlier, Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui took 33 lives and injured 27 others on the university’s campus in what instantaneously became the deadliest mass shooting in the United States’ history. Giovanni was the last to speak at the memorial convocation, following representatives of various religions, the president of the university, and President Bush. However, unlike how the previous speakers spoke of the shooter and victims, Giovanni spoke to reaffirm the Hokie Nation of their strength as a whole. Delivering her poem with passion and confidence, Giovanni acknowledged the tragedy without specifically mentioning the shooting. She addressed the universality of tragedy, bringing to mind such images as “the Mexican child looking for fresh water” and “the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory”. She concludes by declaring that Virginia Tech is not defined by tragedy, ending with three repetitions of the phrase “we will prevail” followed by a final “we are Virginia Tech”. The impassioned, declarative ending resulted in an overwhelming audience response. Unbeknownst to the majority of people at the time, Giovanni’s address completed a circle that had begun two years earlier.
Giovanni was one of the first to raise red flags about Seung-Hui’s behavior after he enrolled in her Creative Writing: Poetry class. Frightened by Seung-Hui’s dress, defiant attitude, and dark and violent images in his writing, many of the students stopped attending class. He disturbed Giovanni so much that she issued an ultimatum to her department chair: remove Seung-Hui from her class, or she would resign. Seung-Hui was removed. However, university counselors were unable to find any specific threats in his writing, and no written complain about his behavior was made.
On a hurting campus potentially looking for someone to blame, many could have potentially picked Giovanni. She had recognized the madness present in Seung-Hui, but failed to do anything substantial about it, thereby unintentionally contributed to the Virginia Tech massacre. Instead of refusing to teach him, Giovanni could have made more of an effort to understand Seung-Hui, attempting to better communicate with him through the writing she excelled at. An author of some troubled pieces of poetry herself, what would have happened if Giovanni had shared these pieces with Seung-Hui and had meaningful conversations, shown genuine interest in a student so clearly disturbed? If Giovanni was so convinced as to the “evil” nature of Seung-Hui, why did she not take further steps to make sure he was investigated? Could the shooting have been averted with the mentorship of a faculty member? Regardless of the answers to these questions, the president of Virginia Tech made a conscious decision in picking Giovanni as the closing speaker at the memorial commencement on April 17, 2007. In choosing a person intricately intertwined with Seung-Hui, the president deliberately conveys the message that nobody can be blamed for such tragedies. A professor cannot predict whether a disturbed student will one day become a mass murder – neither can a university pour resources into every student a staff member has a complaint about. Even if the unthinkable does happen and the student commits an act of violence, everyone can be forgiven for possible neglect and contribute to the healing and solidarity of the institution.
In the hours following the morning shooting, the Virginia Tech campus was transformed into one of shock and grief, as well as impending xenophobic tendencies in response to Seung-Hui’s Korean identity. As an anti-racist advocate, Giovanni was extremely aware of the potential for intolerance and racial violence. A dedicated sports fan, Giovanni was also aware of the importance of speaking in the Cassel Coliseum – an arena where thousands of Hokie fans join together to cheer on their beloved basketball team. Just as sports fans refer to their teams as “we”, Giovanni made a conscious effort to unite the Virginia Tech community as one, using the words “we” and “our” 30 times out of a total 258 words. These words were specific to the community at Virginia Tech, yet also broad enough to encompass the entire world watching live as she delivered her speech. It induced a sense of pride and togetherness, while at the same time directly combatting the racial violence that could have ensued. She refrained from differentiating certain groups from others by never using the word “they”, whether this was the shooter or any other group (Bernstein 345).
Giovanni’s emotional poem created a lasting image and changed the entire mood of the campus. As soon as she finished speaking, the crowd stood as one and erupted into applause. The once-somber audience, overcome with pride and unity, also responded to her cleverly hid sports allusion. After 54 seconds of standing ovation, the “Let’s go Hokies” sports chant spontaneously started. The energy in the room was transformed as everyone shouted together and displayed their Hokie spirit. She was able to redirect racist violence to a better future of solidarity and support.
In the days and weeks following the mass murder at Virginia Tech, many people tried to transform the university into something that it was not. The tragedy is not Virginia Tech – what the community did in response was more important than what was done to them, a fact that Giovanni’s speech helped many people to understand. In those days we all truly were Virginia Tech. The words from Giovanni’s poem could be seen on shirts, banners, and signs around the campus and nation. However, we were also Americans. Americans who to this day continue to commit incomprehensible acts of gun violence. Do we need poems like Giovanni’s each time a similar tragedy occurs to unite us and push us to challenge the presence of such events in our country? For it is only united as one that we will push critical gun laws through Congress in an attempt to save the lives of the innocent.
Bernstein, Robin. 2012. “Utopian Movements: Nikki Giovanni and the Convocation Following the Virginia Tech Massacre.” African American Review 45, no. 3: 341-353.
After thinking about my artifact more in-depth this morning, I think I have found a different artifact I wish to present about. As a resident of Virginia and the daughter of two Virginia Tech alumni, I am linked to the shooting that occurred on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007. An artifact related to this event is the black Virginia Tech ribbon framed by the words “We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.” It isn’t as universal as my previous artifacts, but something that I still see present in the community today, whether this be in the Virginia Tech remembrance pins the administrators at my school wear, or the moment of silence we take on every anniversary. After hearing of the shooting, a countless number of colleges stood together with Virginia Tech, regardless of rivalries. Here at Penn State, maroon and orange Penn State shirts were distributed to students to wear at the blue and white game, and the Ohio State football team wore the Virginia Tech remembrance ribbon on their helmets at their Spring Game. All around the United States citizens united to support the community and reach out to friends and families of the victims. This event touched an incredible amount of people because it happened on a college campus — it could happen to anyone. What do you think about the Virginia Tech remembrance ribbon as my civic artifact? I am now trying to chose between this and the Uncle Sam poster.
My first option for a civic artifact is Mickey Mouse. I really like the idea of choosing a Disney related artifact because many American children are introduced to Disney at a very young age. I was brought up on Disney, and have watched a large number of the company’s animated movies an uncountable number of times. Mickey Mouse, the face of Disney, is seen by children in movies, in television shows, and in the incredibly popular Walt Disney World Resorts around the world. Characters such as Mickey Mouse, Ariel, and Captain Hook are household names, and the lessons Disney teaches persist into adulthood. However, there is also controversy surrounding Disney, such as the relatively small amount of ethnic diversity, dependence of female leads on their male counterparts, and even more recently, the two-year old who was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World. I think one of the challenges Mickey Mouse may pose as a civic artifact is how the artifact comments on commonplaces. What do you think of Disney and how it can be used as a civic artifact?
The second option I have for a civic artifact is a cross. As a Christian I wear a cross necklace around my neck every day, and hope to never forget everything it represents. I like this symbol as an artifact because it has been inseparable from the Christian faith since the religion’s birth over two thousand years ago. I am interested in discovering how the need for the cross has changed over the time period it has existed, as well as what it means not only to Christians, but to people of other faiths or belief systems. A challenge the cross may pose as a civic artifact is how the artifact frames the civic. Do you think that the cross could be used as a strong example of a civic artifact?
My final option for a civic artifact is this Army recruitment poster. First used in World War I, it was necessary for kindling patriotism in the hearts of citizens eligible to enlist. The poster’s popularity and success enabled it to be easily recognizable throughout the years, later being adapted for use during World War II. To this day, especially with the upcoming presidential election in November, derivations of the poster and Uncle Sam are used to encourage patriotism. I am interested in using this as an artifact because of my love for history. I don’t see any obvious challenges this artifact may pose — what about you?