GW tends to attract a certain “type” of person.
They’re talkative. Opinionated. Passionate. I could go on, but I’d only be listing more euphemisms for what you already know. GW kids just do not shut up.
I really learned this my first week here, before classes even started. On one of my first nights in Lafayette Hall, I had the distinct pleasure of walking into a competition between my floormates involving who could name the most Supreme Court justices. There were bonus points if you could put them in chronological order.
The gut reaction to this story is to claim that this is not you. But I have news for you: It is.
It is the same you who kept asking the professor questions after class was over. It is the you who blogged about the Student Association elections. I’m not forgetting about that you who always had an idea about policy or religion or photography. You always had an idea. And it was always extremely important.
I struggled over the last four years to quiet my desire to tell you it wasn’t important. There were times when I called you out for caring what pseudo-politics go on across this campus or what you believed was the true solution to the conflict in the Middle East. There were days I felt you were wasting my time and the time of all of our colleagues with your generally uninformed opinion.
But I could not tell you to quiet yourself without acknowledging the simple fact that in many ways, I was you. I believed since the first day I arrived on this campus that my voice was important enough to come through this newspaper. I started calling up The Hatchet office before I even visited this campus. Yes, I was that kid too. And when I joined The Hatchet, I found that there were just as many kids ready to work harder than anyone could imagine, all for the same glory: the byline.
At some point in my time at The Hatchet, I began to believe my own opinions mattered too. I switched from writing news and features to writing my thoughts, my beliefs and my arguments. Some days, I convinced you that I had a point. Many more, you dismissed my thoughts with a succinct argument yourself. But hopefully, every day that I wrote, I invited you to think.
I certainly know it got you to write. I have had my share of critiques and criticisms from all parts of this campus. Through both writing for and editing the Opinions section, I realized how easy it is to become offended by the voices of my classmates. But I always reminded myself that if someone had taken the time to read and compose a response to something that I had written, I felt I owed them the decency to listen to their idea too.
I heeded the advice of some. I ignored others. But I learned from each and every one.
I’m not sure what my experience would have been like without all of you who just refused to stay quiet. I may never have learned to articulate my opinion the way you taught me to. Maybe I would have tried to listen to your thoughts, but I may not have come to respect your beliefs the way I do now. And I certainly would not know how to lose a debate with grace.
As I look to my future beyond this campus, I know what you taught me will change the way I see the world. This time next year, I’ll be evaluated on how successful I am at pulling middle school students multiple grade levels behind their age to grade-level accomplishment in math. But what I’ll really be evaluated on is how well I am able to listen to them. I will be tested to see how well I can negotiate with them. Every measure of their success will be a measure of my patience, dedication and unwavering support. And if I succeed, it will be because of this campus and what you taught me while I was here.
As I prepare for my departure from Foggy Bottom, I can only hope that this campus never sees the end of you – the always eager, always vocal GW student. Without you, I’m not sure I would be the same person.
The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and public policy, is a Hatchet columnist.
Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this op-ed.
This article appeared in the April 23, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.