More JFK

Arriving at CMC, like many freshmen, I held grand aspirations for making the world a better place. In my college essay, I provided a new solution to small arms proliferation in East Africa. At the freshman Athenaeum dinner, I listened dutifully to Deogratias Niyizonkiza discuss his world-changing experience working as a doctor in the third world. I placed my favorite piece of inspiration, JFK’s famous quote on the importance of national service, at the center of my bookshelf. This year, I find myself looking more often to the Malcolm Tucker poster hanging in my room. Tucker, a British TV character who lets off expletives more often than I previously thought possible, is a power-hungry and ruthless Prime Ministerial aid. It’s awesome, but it shouldn’t be. Mr. Tucker doesn’t care for policy, only political firefights.

We face this fascination with power plays in our own government, where partisan bickering amongst political elite seems to be a goal rather than a means to an end. CMCers are well versed in politics, so I won’t explain our problems in depth. But I will point out that this breakdown is evident in the Capitol Building and statehouses alike, and change looks unforeseeable until a new crop of passionate leaders rises up.

Enter CMC. The school’s stated mission is to develop future leaders. Clearly, CMC alumni are successful, so we’re doing something right. Given that the stakes are so high, our culture and curriculum need to ensure that graduating seniors have the requisite tools to climb to the top. Representative of that mandate are Winston Churchill's words, ingrained in our new fountain, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." But CMC should ensure that graduates also carry their passion for change and good governing. If graduates leave here without this passion, their inner Malcolm Tucker might emerge, as it does in many of our leaders. Our graduates are pressured to fit a certain mold—one that should change.

That change must come from both inside and outside of the classroom. Take my Introduction to American Politics class, for example. As interesting as it was, we spent nearly the entire semester discussing polling techniques and tactics for changing voter perception (Malcolm Tucker's two favorite subjects, I should add.) Rarely, if ever, did we touch on the real problems facing our country and what our government can and should do to fix them.

CMC would also do much better to promote government service amongst seniors. With the amount of preparation we claim to provide, shouldn't we hope that graduates assume positions of leadership outside of the private sector? It certainly doesn't help that there's a different career fair for consulting and finance every night, while relatively little is done to find graduating students long-term jobs in public service. Where will the students with ambition to help our government turn?

I'm not suggesting that we're turning every freshman government major into a die-hard Econ-Finance dual applying for an internship at the Boston Consulting Group. Of course, some CMCers are still interested in public service. But I spoke recently with Russell Page '13 about this social pressure instilled at CMC, and he recognized the lack of encouragement for students to pursue jobs in the public sector. Russell, a Truman Scholar, wants to work on public policy in his home state of New Mexico, and there are few passionate students at CMC like him. They need the right push to be the majority, instead of the minority. CMC needs to actively work to counteract the stigma attached to idealism. Then, CMC grads can provide better leadership in government.

Yes, CMC currently provides some outlets for aiding causes and doing good. We have environmental organizations and various human rights task forces, but many of the hot shots go and work for the Rose. This isn’t always bad, but social causes can’t be considered toxic if we’re to go into the world with the hope to make positive change.

We must encourage, rather than discourage, social activism (I know, heresy coming from a conservative), even if it sometimes makes us look like Pitzer. More JFK, less Malcolm Tucker.