When I finally abandoned my dream of becoming a history professor a year-and-a-half ago, I decided my last column would be a proud declaration of my immediate intention to join the Army. It seemed a fitting conclusion to several of the themes of my 62 columns – the greatness of America, the need for a confident foreign policy, the personal and societal benefits of discipline, accountability and a work ethic.
Then I met Allison. Within a few months, my post-graduation plans became significantly more domestic. I am disappointed that I am not able to write that farewell column, but some things are best done when single. It makes me wonder if the military‘s greatest competitor for the hearts of young men is young women.
I guess now I could write a farewell column based on other themes I continually addressed – the advantages of the inherent differences between men and women, the importance of family, the supremacy of love. But I think the evidence for that column is not your business.
So I conceived of another ending, one that takes two columns to complete. If last I recounted how stressful it was to have this column, and how much I hated politics and its effects on my life at UC Davis, then why did I continue with it? What was my purpose?
I remember once a while ago when someone in a senior position at The Aggie – whom I respected very much – talked briefly about my column. She said something like that she never votes Republican but found herself generally agreeing with me, and that others think that too.
With the bigger topics I hit more recently I imagine she would more often disagree. But her opinion reinforced a hope that I had had almost since the beginning. If I wrote carefully enough, explained clearly enough, I could get a lot of people to see my way of thinking. I am not so naive as to think most people at UC Davis will share it. But I would like them to understand it.
On our campus there is a prescribed way of thinking. A majority of students and officials, and the vast majority of professors, all buy into it. In the first two academic years I wrote for The Aggie, I never had the support of another conservative columnist. This year was the same, while I was up against four other liberal commentators. Entrenched ideologies and the numbers did not point to a simple victory for me.
So I worked in other ways. When I criticized the excessive distribution of condoms on campus, some of those in charge of the policy wrote back in an editorial appearing in The Aggie. If they actually emphasized the choice of having sex or not the way they did in that response, I would not have written the piece in the first place. A small win, but a win nonetheless.
When I knew that an idealistic young audience would already be insistent on helping the poor or ending racism, I tried to point out the best ways to do so, even if they don‘t make us feel as good at first. I wish more people in politics developed common ground like that rather than destroyed it.
All told, I wrote because I am an optimist. I wrote because I believe that there‘s usually a right way of going about things and thinking about things, and if I mean well and write well, with honesty and humor, I can make a difference. I wrote because I hope the better philosophies and ideologies will win out in the end, and it is my obligation to impart my bit of wisdom to who will give me a moment to read it.
I love my college and my country. I firmly believe that even if we are not all capable of genius, we are capable of wisdom, and this wisdom is gathered over the course of our lives from the thousands of voices we encounter.
All we have to do is listen and contemplate. And that‘s a cause for optimism.
Take your last chance to have ROB OLSON hear your voice before his account email@example.com is forfeit next week.