Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reflections on Ivy League Connection

I am still astounded at the generosity of the Ivy League Connection. They have placed an enormous responsibility upon us students who accept their donation. As I wrote in my very first post, I would be remissed if I took this gift, used it as a springboard, and went of to be enormously successful for myself alone. Yet while the money plays a roll, it is the responsibility I feel to the people I go to school with, and the community I am from itself, that urges me to do something positive for them. Because I went to a "future leaders" program with a bunch of other people who had no idea what it was like to go to an intercity school, who had never even interacted with someone who was totally out of their social or economic class. I am an unabashed liberal, and I met many people who had similar views as I did, but had no empathy for the people they wanted to help. Even in them I saw a disconnect, and while it was better than the "let them eat cake" attitude I saw in many students, that worries me about their capability to represent people like those from WCCUSD.
I do not know what the ultimate goal of Ivy League Connection is; what the purpose of encouraging a select few from our district to go on and be successful. But I know how I feel about it. I will take all the help I can get, to become equipped to promote positive change, and act on the understanding I gained from El Cerrito High. I hope my program mates feel the same way because now I know how few of us there really are who feel as I do, and know what I know. Most of all I hope that the ILC's investment in us is worth it in that regard.

Reflections on Grand Strategy

The more I learn the more I am astounded at how not simple the world is. All the reflection on myself and the world through this program has culminated in the great realization of how little I know, how little most people really know. It's less like a machine as I wrote in an earlier post, and more like an infinite labyrinth that is always shifting. I think that this is the ultimate example of Clausewitz' idea of friction-the problems that arise when theory is put into practice. How society is built today is humans trying to live together, while balancing all the different desires of nations down to individual people, and as I have learned, it is neither perfect nor clear why it is imperfect.
This kind of thinking always leads me to questions that are perhaps too big to answer, and the important question arises of whether it is worth thinking about at all, as opposed to just molding what we already have into something better. In the Grand Strategy program, I would say the latter. What the program came down to was how to view the world as a whole, through many different lenses, come up with plans that could make an effective difference based on that more holistic understanding, and above all, how to succeed. The world's imperfection leaves gaps, holes that must be filled by powerful people to function successfully. At Yale, I met 50, give or take, of those people in 20 years. The hope is that through education, and a moral compass provided by God, society, or whomever, these people will move the world in a positive direction. Unfortunately there is no test that power will not be abused, leaders will always act justly, or that they will make the "right call." But there are ways to approximate who is on a track for success, and again, Grand Strategy found them, and I met them. My hope, and something that I think is very wrong with the world that I can pinpoint, is that future leaders become less focused on victory and success. The paradox of politics and leadership is that you want power to implement policy based on your ideology, but you must continuously sacrifice that ideology to stay in power, and achieve your more important goals. My question is when does one stop? At what point is it better to lose power for the sake of your principles?
My criticism for the world is that winning almost always is a greater incentive than upholding one's principles. Moreover, I felt that the need to win was conditioned into many of my fellow Grand Strategists.
So what does this mean for me? Well if the majority of "future leaders" are not thinking about the intrinsic imperfections in our society, and I my have the potential to be a leader, maybe it is my responsibility to think be an advocate of that mode of thinking. I think that what I will have to answer for myself, is how to reconcile that with being a societal leader, and whether it is even possible to function as both a gear and a critic of the same machine.