August 27, 2009

The good, the good, and the ugly of Dartmouth mentions today.

(1) In Indian Country Today, Don Rains, the 45-year old member of the Dartmouth class of 2013, continues to have one of the most inspiring and philosophical life stories I've ever heard. The highlights:
[Rains] hopes to inspire other American Indians and to be an activist and advocate for preventing the tragic loss of teenage lives to drunk driving... His mother did not die of natural causes or even an overdose; she was murdered... Rains’ father was serving the third year of a 10-year prison sentence for using and selling heroin... Shuffled into the foster care system, Rains ended up with an alcoholic couple. When he turned 18 he joined the Navy, serving from 1982 to 1989, and during that time he began to read voraciously... His “ultimate favorite” book is “Remembrance of Things Past,” a semi-autobiographical novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust... His painting and a chance encounter with Jon Moscartolo, the owner of the Visions Toward Wellness Gallery in Stony Creek, Conn., led him to Dartmouth.

(2) The Liberian Daily Observer profiles Mahmud Johnson '13 and his address to his classmates, encouraging them to study hard, use the library, and explore the internet if they want to make the most of their lives. Facts obvious to westerners, but perhaps novel to those in other corners of the world. Johnson's resumé includes: valedictorian of his high school class at B. W. Harris Episcopal High School, host of the youth program, Let’s Talk About Sex (LTAS), and a Public Affairs internship at the Liberian Ministry of State. The article includes a nice photo of Johnson with Liberian President Sirleaf, who was recently honored by Dartmouth herself.

(3) In the Huffington Post, Julia Plevin '09 pens an almost stunningly naive piece about how giddy she is to be experiencing everyday life in Vietnam. With the simultaneously uninformed and slightly condescending tone of a Dartmouth freshman writing about their first foray into a fraternity basement, the wide-eyed Plevin remarks on how cheap, quaint, and no-longer-war-torn Vietnam is. Her special-interest piece is without any argument and would be better suited for the depths of the Dartmouth Mirror than the HuffPo. Even her opener about her inability to find a conventional internship falls flat and petty outside of a Dartmouth readership. College students have a bad enough reputation for being annoyingly ignorant about the world as it is. We don't need any help.
It is apparent that Vietnamese people are tough and resourceful. When an American friend mentioned that he lost in tennis to his Vietnamese opponent even though the American had all the right gear and the big forehand, I joked casually that that was just like the war, when the Americans, for all their learned skills and equipment, could not overcome the Vietnamese. While I was able to casually joke, I know there are some people for whom the war here is still so real. I respect both Americans and Vietnamese who had hard war experiences and I am grateful that I can be part of this new generation that has lost sight of the war and wants to form friendships and alliances.

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