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A thousand miles away from home, I sat in a cramped apartment littered with Bruce Springsteen CDs, listening to my Spanish home-stay family talk about their day. Every evening, just before dinner, the four of us would gather for tiempo de la familia (family time). Nuria and I would chat about her friends in Oviedo. Emilio would discuss his work as a soldier. And Consuelo, the mother, listed off her errands and chores.
One night, we discussed current events in the United States. Policies and politics in the US should have been a very comfortable topic for me– but I knew less than they did. Consuelo had to explain to me Barack Obama’s health care plan and John McCain’s energy solution. Also, she introduced to me her favorite politician, Howard Dean, and to his ideas for the future of the United States. I, on the other hand, could not even tell them why George Bush’s approval ratings were low. I realized how uninformed I was about the country where I was born and raised.
Back on American soil, that evening inspired me to learn more. For the first time, I began to read the newspaper and watch the news. I became a fan of columnists Thomas Friedman and David Brooks. While I do not consider myself a raging liberal or an arch-conservative, I have developed an interest in politics. Because of this new interest, I decided to help campaign for Barack Obama. An administrator of the Obama website assigned me to a block of Hispanic residents in Miami because of my Spanish language skills. The men and women I telephoned were primarily interested in Obama’s plans for jobs, relations with Cuba and voting locations. This time, when they had questions, I had answers for them.
Being selected by my school to participate in Alabama Boys State could not have come at a better time with my budding new interest in politics. I was able to spend a week learning about state issues with more than 400 senior boys from across the state. We ran for office, held legislative meetings, and passed bills. We debated issues from the time we woke up until the time we went to bed. The highlight of the week was listening to the real politicians. The American Legion invited more than a dozen candidates and current elected officials to speak to us about their ideas for the future of our state.
As Student Council President this year, I have made political awareness a top priority. I want the MA student body to be informed and politically aware. To accomplish this, I created a Political Committee made up of only students who will invite candidates and newsmakers to school during assemblies throughout the year. Hopefully, the assemblies will encourage conversation and debate. And as for me, when the opportunity arises to travel abroad again, I won’t be that dumb American again.
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