What We Really Think About Jobs, The Economy, And Politics

To those who care about the United States,

Much has been said lately about how college students and recent graduates won’t stand for Obama to be reelected because the economy has not improved and job prospects are bleak. Instead of finding our dream jobs, we are moving back into our parents’ homes. While some of that may be true, here is another truth: we are smarter than you think – and we realize that Obama is not solely responsible for the economy.

I am employed and I am enjoying my job. Is it my dream job? Maybe, maybe not: but it is certainly putting me on the right path, whatever that is. Many of my friends who graduated in the past two years are employed across the country in just about every industry. And many other friends are still looking for jobs. Some had jobs, but left to look for other work or get another degree – because we aren’t here to settle.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but we don’t want just any old job. We want to be happy and feel like we are contributing something to society. Many of us are willing to remain unemployed longer if it gives us the chance to end up where we want to be. Sure it sucks, and we wish the economy was better, but we also know that we have a lot to offer and we know that our turn will come.

Conversation about the economy has been hijacked to become a referendum on President Obama. Some say that Obama must not be reelected so anything he tries to do must be stopped. Therefore, any efforts Obama attempts to improve the economy are doomed to failure, or at least limited success. It is Congress and the states that prevent improvements to the economy when they refuse to participate in Obama’s plans if said plans could help Obama in the election. This isn’t solely Obama’s fault. It is those who refuse to work together. And this is not a pro-Democrat or anti-Republican analysis. It is the facts. Research them. We did and we will continue to do so.

Our generation is not content to sit back and be told what to think and who to blame. We have too much information at our fingertips. We will use it. And we want to pursue more and more opportunities. We believe in our future and in the future of the United States of America. What we do not believe in is the partisan attacks that prevent useful governance and which prevent our country from actually solving its problems. We demand that politicians work together, compromise, and understand that they are here to do something. Represent us – the future. We have voted and we will vote for or against you because this is how the economy affects us.

Sincerely,

College students and recent graduates

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Reflections on “Repugnant” UCLA Student Video – Developing an Inclusive Society

It has happened again.  A college student has made insensitive and racist statements.  Not surprising.  Too often, people seem not to think of the consequences of their actions. Yet, college students are supposed to be “educated.”  One might assume that such education would involve cultural understanding and sensitivity.  Too often, that is not the case.  On Friday, a UCLA student posted a video rant against Asian students.  I cannot find the original video, but one of many copies is viewable below:

Today, UCLA’s newspaper posted an article about the video in which a university administrator calls the video “repugnant.”  That’s a good thing.  Yet, more needs to be done.  This is an issue that is larger than UCLA (although I certainly hope that UCLA addresses this appropriately).  There is a general lack of acceptance and inclusion by too many people in our society.  Even those (yes, including myself) who claim to be “pro-diversity” or who say they are not racist do, in fact, discriminate and say or do hurtful things.

We need to educate our young people about acceptance and inclusion, beginning in pre-school and elementary school before learned notions of hate and racism and discrimination are developed.  Yes, we learn to hate and we learn what is “right” or “wrong” about the ways in which we interact with others.  A cultural change is needed beginning with young children and continuing through colleges and universities and into the workplace.

This change will likely need political support and is surely going to take longer than necessary.  Let us all commit ourselves to doing our part to make sure that our future is educated on how we should interact with others.  Treating people “the way we’ve always done it” is not okay anymore.

Ironically, UCLA’s The Civil Rights Project put out a policy paper supporting some of what I am proposing in this post.  Perhaps the university needs to start with it’s students…

 

Blog Post for MASA/JAFI

As I have posted before, I studied abroad in Israel from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  The Ginsberg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering studying in Israel.  Be’er Sheva may not be the usual destination, but it is a great city and BGU is consistently ranked the top university by Israeli students.

The Overseas Student Program (OSP) is also sponsored by two quasi(?) governmental organizations, MASA and the Jewish Agency For Israel.  These groups encourage students to come to Israel and even give scholarships to do so.  I was recently contacted to write a blog post for them about my experience.  It will be posted in the near future and perhaps may also be printed in a Jewish newspaper.  Here is the article:

In 2005 I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY), one of two Jewish youth groups I was a part of, along with BBYO.  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more and I knew I would have to return.
I spent five months studying at Masa Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  I attend the University of Denver where approximately 70% of the undergraduate students study abroad – so I knew I would be spending part of Junior Year in another country.  What country that would be was an easy choice.  I knew that I had to be in Israel.  The question was what school.  My options were pretty limited because of the University of Denver’s quarter schedule.  Nevertheless, I knew that there were ways to get around this.
I was trying to decide between Hebrew University in Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.  I wanted to have the opportunity to explore Judaism while experiencing the “real” Israel.  I wanted to learn Hebrew and I knew that English was pervasive in Jerusalem.  Much to the surprise of almost everyone I knew, I chose Ben-Gurion.  It ended up being a phenomenal choice.
I loved every minute of classes at Ben-Gurion.  Be’er Sheva is an amazing city, regardless of what anyone says.  The people are amazing.  Our first night there, about 30 lost Americans stood on the street corner trying to figure out where we were and how we could find someplace close by to eat.  A student came up and offered to make us pancakes.  We got to know him well over the next several months.
I kept a blog for the summer to share my experiences and stories with anyone who cared to read them.  I made the following observations in my first real post:
  • There are a lot of stray cats (and some dogs) in Be’er Sheva.
  • The Israeli students are actually finishing up their semester with the next few weeks being their final period. Their schedule got messed up with two different (one professor and one student) strikes this past year. Many of these students will be moving out of the dorms. Their new semester will not begin until mid-November.
  • The school week in Israel is Sunday – Thursday. It is going to take some getting used to.
These observations seem laughable now that I have spent time in Be’er Sheva and Israel for as long as I did.  There were so many meaningful things that happened.
At home now in St. Louis, Missouri for the summer, I have been experiencing an extremely hot and humid summer.  The heat is familiar from Be’er Sheva, the humidity, not so much.  St. Louis is missing the sand though (which really gives the city some character).  The other day I was working in a building looking out at the sun and blue skies.  Someone mentioned spending time at the pool over the weekend and I flashed back to the days of Ulpan, when we would spend the afternoons at the pool, across from Mayonot Gimel.  We would swim, tan, or play volleyball and matkot (Israeli paddleball) with the Israeli students.  We were always welcomed and we began to feel part of the Israeli society.
Back in Denver, I began to get involved in Israel advocacy and programming with student groups and formed relationships with StandWithUs and other organizations.  I took classes on the Israeli-Arab conflict and wrote my honors thesis on Israeli communities rising from discrimination to power.  As part of a liberal international studies program, I often found myself defending Israel, but I was always happy to do it.  I had immediately been a part of the controversy mix, returning to the United States just before my Israeli dorms were evacuated after being hit by a rocket from Gaza (don’t worry, there were no injuries).
I knew that I would not be able to see everything that I had wanted to see during my five months.  I knew I would want to go back.  What was surprising though was how much of Be’er Sheva I did not experience.  Sure, I traveled and explored, but I always figured, “Be’er Sheva only has 200,000 people.  How much can there be here to do?”  Apparently, a lot.  I always said I would return to visit those small museums, but never did.  Hard as I knew it would be, I wanted to get up early on a Thursday morning to go to the animal auction at the Bedouin Market.  I missed it.  That is my only regret.
My Masa Israel experience was amazing.  I would never have given it up for anything.  Now, I know that I need to return.  I hope to do so this December (when I can once again eat way too many sufganiyot! – jelly donuts).  Until then, I will think of Israel often.  See you soon!

As you can tell, they edited it. 🙂 Once it is posted to their blog, I’ll be sure to share the link.