Service on A Global Scale
Often times I think about how I found myself pursuing a career in Public Service. I can honestly say it is because of the people I have met in the course of my life that have inspired me to think of public service on a global scale. I have always attempted to live a life of selflessness, but to make it into a career is an entirely different battle. However, it is a battle worth fighting and I am blessed to have met people in my life that inspired me to pursue a life of global public service. As I look back at the experiences I have been privileged to have, it is clear that what I thought were simply accidental moments of chance were really significant moments of a calling toward public service.
My Introduction to The World - Harvard University
Ever since I was eight years old, I told myself I would attend Harvard University. At a young age I heard that it was the number one university in the United States, and from that moment I was determined to attend. However, what came to fruition seven years later was a little different, and a little earlier than I thought. During my sophomore year in high school, I was nominated by my Medical Skills teacher to attend a summer leadership program with People to People. When I received the letter in the mail announcing my nomination, I initially thought it was the equivalent to a spam email. I had never heard of such an organization, let alone did I find myself worthy of any nomination. However, it was not long before I was set to go to Harvard University for the summer.
Harvard was everything I had dreamed and more. The aesthetics of the campus alone were beyond anything I had ever seen before. The merge of contemporary-modern interior and the older initial exterior of the campus was absolutely stunning. What stunned me even more, however, was the culture shock. When I registered for the program, I did not know I would be meeting people from all over the world. What I thought would be a small group of 20-50 people touring Harvard University turned out to be 500-750 people touring all of the greater Boston area. I learned so much from so many different people. In my group alone, there were individuals from places I had never heard of until I met them.
My group consisted of young men and women who were from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong, Jordan, Isreal, the United Kingdom, and Paris. What I learned from them was not just about geography or culture, but also religion, social customs, educational interests, and even how they see the world on a philosophical level. Each and every person was different, but as teenagers, we all had similar challenges and values. To subscribe to the cliche, "we really aren't all that different" would truly be a disservice to everything I learned from Suleman, Jordan, Dina, Leen, Wendy, Rochelle, Kathryn, Kristina, Petko, Angelle, and Ashina. We truly are different, and that is what makes us so interesting to those who are willing to learn from each other.
During my time at Harvard, each ambassador was tasked with coming up with a service project to bring back to our home region. I have always had a desire to assist single mothers on a large scale. That demographic of women always resonated with me because I always wanted a better life for my mother while she was raising me. My mother, Sharon performed her absolute best every day to provide for me, and I always wished I had the power to make things easier for her. The other ambassadors had similar experiences, and their service projects came from a personal mindset as well. I was honored that they would share such experiences with me in confidence after only knowing each other for such a short time. My goal was to eventually develop a large property to act as an all-inclusive center for single mothers, with lodging, daycare, career services, education services, lifestyle development, and extracurriculars for the slightly older children. Fortunately, all of the People to People ambassadors found my service project worthy of nomination for the flagship service award, which I was honored to have received. The fact that my service project resonated with an international community taught me that we all have similar desires to see the world become a better place, especially for marginalized communities. It also taught me that perhaps I myself have an ability to resonate with people internationally, and perhaps I should further develop that skill.
My Introduction to Service - Washington, D.C.
Admittedly, after my learning experience at Harvard, I was eager to spend my summer meeting more people. Fortunately, I was nominated once again by a different teacher to attend the National Young Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. At the time, I had the seed of international affairs planted, but I did not know much about the concept of Political Science or Policy. Interestingly enough, the teachers that kept nominating me for these summer programs were teachers from my medical magnet school. Nonetheless, when I stepped foot into D.C. for some cosmic reason I was given immense responsibility. Up to that point in my life, I never thought of myself as an outstanding individual.
Most of my accomplishments simply came from hard work and even more so from my politeness. However, for some cosmic reason my group, "Marshall" pushed me to the front of the line to take on tasks. In our first simulation, the group in unanimity voted me to act as President of the United States to handle a hostage situation regarding American citizens and Somali Pirates. My group was so impressed with how I handled being president that our group leader, Robin, who was employed by NYLC asked nominated me as the representative from Texas for our House debate simulation. After several days of workshops, lectures, networking, and tours of Washington, D.C., the day had come for my debate. I was under the impression that the debate would be a separate simulation, with perhaps a small audience. It wasn't until the last possible minute that I realized this was a flagship event amongst NYLC and all the NYLC ambassadors would be in attendance, all 700 of us. To add fire to the flame, I was the very last to go, everything up to my moment to walk to the podium would be remembered, with my statement being the most recent memory.
Luckily, I was able to use the time to come up with something profound to say. Everyone was doing so well, cheers and genuine applause filled the room after every ambassador spoke. Some debated with facts and figures, some baited the room's political views, some used the emotions of the room to engage, and for some their statement completely backfired. I was not sure which category I would fall into, "praise" or "backfire", but I knew I was intent on speaking truth to power. When my turn arrived, I stepped up to the podium, addressed the room, and delivered my speech on the importance of bipartisan legislature, a unified America, and the hope for a better tomorrow amongst political parties. Upon delivering my speech, I was blessed to receive a roaring standing ovation. At that moment I knew I may have a gift for policy.
The Merge of Service and The World - Italy & Greece
The summer going into my senior year, I was invited once again by People to People to attend a Leadership trip to Italy and Greece. During our time overseas we would be a part of an ambassadorial mission and service project (later on in my academic career, I would conclude that all of my People to People endeavors were essentially covert public diplomacy efforts). Much like my experience in Washington, D.C. I was pushed into the front lines of leadership when we landed in Athens, Greece. Initially, I assumed it was because I was slightly older than the rest of my group, and a little more charismatic, but as time went on, they kept looking toward me to make decisions and speak to the locals for assistance. This came to fruition quite early in Athens when a demonstration regarding Greece's economy at the time turned into a full-blown riot. As the riot broke out, everyone was separated from his or her group chaperone, and we had to look out for each other to make it back to our hotel safely. I was tasked by my fellow ambassadors to lead the way.
Upon making it out of the riot safely, I was often tasked with being the front-man when working on our service projects, speaking with the locals, or assisting our chaperones. Whether it was climbing volcanoes, assisting with the preservation of sea turtles, learning cultural dances, making mozzarella cheese from scratch, or assisting our group with finding Greece and Italy's famous sights, I was given the honor and privilege of acting and speaking for our group when the chaperones were absent. That summer showed me that not only was I able to perform well as a public diplomat, but I was also able to exhibit leadership skills abroad. I firmly believe it was this particular summer that was the final straw that manifested an interest in public service on a global scale.
My time in Harvard taught me that people from all over the world are so amazingly different. Meeting people from all over the world (including places I had not yet heard of) was such an amazing experience. The world became so much bigger than Bryan, TX and I learned that people were so entirely different and that is so important to understand and respect. My summer in Washington, D.C. manifested a passion for policy and politics. My group, Marshall also revealed in me a gift and passion for leading and public speaking, from Presidential simulations to partisan debates.
My final summer abroad as a teenager was probably the most pivotal. Surviving a riot and being an active public diplomat taught me that I had a passion for public service and international affairs. However, what impacted me the most was being an ambassador abroad, and representing the United States at a time when Greece was going through an economic crisis, and a time when Italy was willing to open its doors to a bunch of teenagers from the United States. I knew then that I would eventually have to attend an institution like The Bush School of Government and Public Service to hone my possession of the noble calling and lead a life of public service, but most importantly, diplomacy.