The up-and-down events of the past few weeks have reminded me why we are so fortunate to live in Washington during this time in history. The United States Supreme Court last week opened the door for political corruption at unprecedented levels by overturning limitations on corporate spending on political ads and elections. The immediate aftermath of its decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission will lead to politicians falling to their knees and groveling at the sight of the massive wealth corporate America can now infuse into elections. As a result, the voice of the everyday American – regardless of political party – will become secondary to the race for corporate money. Still, recent events in Haiti have given me hope that there is still human capacity for good. Even in the midst of the ‘great recession,’ our country was still able to raise more than $200 million to provide aid for the Haitian people as they begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild their nation.
Both of these events, though starkly opposite examples of human nature, have brought to light a problem we as college students must deal with every day: how can we make an impact? It seems almost impossible to believe that as someone with no major source of income, no college degree to my name, and no recognition in any major societal or political circles, I can really fight for the ideas I believe in. Does the label of ‘student’ truly limit us to the periphery when it comes to the major issues of our time? Are we really any less credible because we lack ‘life experience’ – the very same ‘life experience’ that often drives people in this country to accept a status quo that is failing – instead of challenging it and trying to fix the problems?
Living in D.C., each of us is given access to a unique lens through which to view the world. As I read about the half-century of precedent and common sense that was ignored by a majority of the Supreme Court, I was overcome with anger about the decision. At the same time, I felt frustrated by my inability to effectively advocate for a change because of the limitations of being ‘just a college student.’ Similarly, part of me was forever changed by the gruesome images of the thousands of dead scattered in the streets of Port-au-Prince. But the worst feeling of all – beyond the sorrow – was that of being unable to help those in need.
For now, the best we can do to overcome these limitations is become active in our community – both in D.C. and at GW. Although many of us take advantage of internships that provide valuable experience and look good on a resumé, there is still something more we can do. It is up to each of us to maximize our experiences by interacting with as many people in that given workplace as possible, with the hopes of building relationships that can be employed later in life to fight for what we believe in. Similarly, GW students have access to an incredibly diverse selection of student organizations. If employed properly, these organizations can be a valuable vehicle for acting on our beliefs and tapping into our creative output as a student body. Regardless of why we each came to GW, we all must deal with balancing the power of ambition and the limitations of our current place in life. In the world we live in today, I have found it increasingly hard to sit on the sidelines as corrupt politicos, businessmen and others destroy our prospects of a successful future due to their waste and abuse. As I said previously, we are fortunate to live in the place where the decisions that will shape our world are made and, because of this, we are privy to information the average college student does not know or may ever learn. It is up to us to use our unparalleled access to information and ‘only in D.C.’ experiences to write a new narrative. We must work with one another to solve problems of expanded political corruption and government waste, which will undoubtedly be left to our generation to solve.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.
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