Thank Goodness Teenage Girls Don’t Write Speeches for the President of the United States 

I know plenty of women who can write, Helen. I know women who can blow the walls of brick buildings. This sounds like a girl.” -Sam Seaborn

At times it is hard to imagine a liberal today daring to say something that could be so easily misinterpreted. What was a simple distinction made in the early 2000’s is a war cry today. Our society doesn’t frown upon a toddler who isn’t making her family dinner. Yet by no means does this suggest she can’t. The one thing that this line really boils down to is this: Progress.

Not the progress of nations. Not the progress of political ideology. It is the progress you see in children from the time they are born to the age of six. Then the same thing again from twelve to eighteen. The mental, physical, and emotional developments that are seen during these stages of life make me wonder why anybody says that “people can’t change”.

This concept of progress is also seen in math. Children are taught how to count, then given meaning to numbers. They are asked to grasp something that is infinitely definite and they do. One can be one grain of sand, one feather, one ton of bricks, but it is all one. By giving meaning to one concept, a foundation is built on which the world can stand. Not much later after that, arrays are made with M&M’s and Goldfish crackers. Multiplication is learned. We can see that it works.  So we accept that and move on. There is a progression to algebra, geometry, and maybe even calculus. A learner can amount to whatever they want to. The amount of progression in anything is a choice.

This begs the question of “what if you just can’t”. People struggle with math, or reading, or [Insert Here] all of the time. What’s up with that? The easiest way of explaining is there is a gap in the staircase of progression. You find this a lot in public education. A student can often be pulled up to the next step without fully understanding a concept. This can get someone through a lesson, unit, or even entire courses. However, there can become a point where a new concept requires an old one (or several old concepts) are used that were never learned. This can cause the next step to be so high for the student that they can neither climb up it themselves or be pulled up. Often, it is at that point that people accept defeat. So, how exactly do we overcome?

CS Lewis best explains it when attempting to achieve our final destination in life. In the preface of “The Great Divorce”, Lewis describes life as a tree, starting at one point then branching outwards. One branch is taken, then another, and another. Making just one wrong turn can prevent us from getting to our destination. But we can always go back. That is hard.  Not everyone can do it, and some can hardly bear to think about it. Yet using this analogy, it is seen that sometimes the quickest way forward and to progression is to actually go backwards. It is vital to recognize when the basics are needed again.

Recognition of shortcomings is the key to an unshakable foundation and the greatest potential. When a firm foundation is created, the next step is to build a beautiful masterpiece. Before commencing is the time to check the foundation. But if the foundation does crack and the building is destroyed, there is no reason not to start again. It can be easy to be satisfied with a house, but the land around it is capable of so much more. As a foundation can grow into a house, a house can grow into an estate. The greatest amount is achieved in life by realizing that now leads to later and there is always something to contribute.

In the West Wing episode “The Fall’s Gonna Kill You”, Sam Seaborn meets with the Progressive Caucus  to discuss a line the caucus wants in one of President Bartlet’s speeches. Sam refuses to use the line and the following dialogue occurs:

SAM
First of all, it’s bad writing.

HENRY
What’s wrong with it?

SAM
It sounds like it was written by a high school girl.

HELEN
Is there something wrong with the way a woman writes?

SAM
There usually is when she’s in high school.

It was never about being a woman. That’s the thing that a lot of people miss these days. It was a statement of progress that happened to have a female as the subject. Everyone is at different stages of progression, but it isn’t a measure of what the end result will be. Rome fell and children who weren’t supposed to live longer than twelve hours have grown to adulthood. There is a time and place for most everything, yet there is a want and an expectation for good leaders to present an estate, not a foundation. Misplaced, heavy expectation does indeed break a perfectly good foundation. It passed by for the moment, for a different time or a different purpose. And there is no shame in that. Remember the reality of now. There is much more that can be accomplished in life than a high school research paper. So, thank goodness teenage girls don’t write speeches for the President of the United States.

~Ali

Old, Dead Men & AP Government

“If I had only three words to describe my interests in high school, I would probably use these: old, dead men. I know that for many girls my age their three words are more along the lines of young, living boys, and don’t get me wrong, while I’ve had plenty of fun with that variety of male too, my affinity for the initial kind still remains. From Aristotle to C.S. Lewis to Winston Churchill and others, this demographic has captured my heart in a way that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago. So many of them have, in one way or another, reminded me of the three words that have become my life motto. That is, life is good. “

When I  began writing this speech piece (titled “Three Words”) in January, I couldn’t have imagined the impact that it would have on me just two-and-a-half months later. The more I said ‘life is good’, the more I believed it and the more I believed it, the happier I’ve been. There is an endless amount of potential to be had. Dreams and goals can certainly be achieved with prudence, passion, and patience.  By attempting to kindle hope in others, I have found that I rekindled hope into myself. I knew that I wanted to share that life is good with others, but until recently, I didn’t know how.

If you are active in the National Speech and Debate Association, you know that many of the speakers and debaters are nerds.  serious about academics.  It is no surprise then that roughly half of the AP Government class are also debaters. These people are my dearest friends. The next part requires a bit of background. With our high school being on a 3 trimester schedule, AP Government doesn’t start until the second one and goes to the end of the year. I decided not to do AP and thoroughly enjoyed  my first trimester of regular government. On the first day of the third trimester however, I knew that something needed to change. I was miserable with my classes and the prospects for the next three months seemed dim. I am a firm believer in finding happiness regardless of circumstance, but also in taking control of your life when necessary. With some prodding by friends, I made the decision to ask the teacher to hop into AP halfway through.

It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I’m a pretty shy person when you first get to know me, with a fear of getting my dreams crushed. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for my life to fall apart. I went to school early and with every step up the east staircase my apprehension also increased. His classroom is at the very end of the west hallway. I walked right past the classroom the first time around, I just couldn’t do it. I stood it the corner of the west hall for a moment, breathed, and said a little prayer before going in. The conversation went a little like this:

“Erm…. I was just wondering if- there was anyway to get into your AP Government class…”

“Sure.”

In that moment I almost died. All of that internal pain and suffering was almost for nothing. After a little bit of time in the counselor’s office, I was good to go. That first day was surreal, exhilarating. I am learning what I love with people I love. I discovered that I want to go down the path of political speech writing. That is scary to me. While getting guidance from my former government teacher, she advised me to start a blog. At this point in my life, I am not very educated, and I am not very personally or cognitively developed yet. What could I possibly write about?

I thought of how much I have changed since I was twelve, and how much I will change by the time I’m twenty-five. I have a dream. I have a goal that I am working towards. Things change and people change, but change can be (and often is) a good thing. One of the things that can be know in this wild, ever changing world is that life is good. There are ups and downs. We make poor choices. In the preface of “The Great Divorce”,  CS Lewis describes life as a tree, starting at one point then branching outwards. When we get on the wrong path by making bad decisions, there isn’t a way to get to your destination without going back. This is hard, but we can go back no matter what we’ve done. When we know our end goal, we can make staying on the path to success that much clearer. Life contains everything. Politics, friendship, family, economics, pop culture, science, humanities. An overload of information is always available at our fingertips. We will never know it all, but life is universal. So that is the starting point. I’ll begin with what I know; while life certainly isn’t easy, life certainly is good.

~Ali