I signed onto The Echo in January 2009 and penned my first column about the need to hold President Obama accountable for his campaign promises. I won’t be around to write a full post-mortem, but I’ve learned a lot during my four years as a member of this publication’s writing staff and as a student at this university.
I’ve seen my name in The Echo close to 100 times and have contributed more than 60,000 words to the cultural and political discussion at this university and beyond.
I’ve become a better writer, a better thinker and a better person. I’ve been called a liberal-progressive-Constitution-hating-communist and a fascist-Israel-loving-reactionary. I hope the truth is someone in between.
So while “dropping a bomb” on Welch Hall or “writing something really controversial” were suggestions from friends and colleagues for my last column, I’d like to instead offer the most important lesson I learned while I was part of this community.
Take pride in where you’re from. Your hometown, your high school, your college.
During my first weeks on campus I heard a recent alumni say he loved coming back to Eastern because this was his home. I couldn’t really imagine feeling that way at the time. But after four years, it makes a lot more sense.
We’re forever tied to the places we’ve been. I’ll always be from Sylvania, Ohio. Eastern Michigan will always be the place I went to college. For the rest of my life, my name will be linked to those places.
If people think poorly of your hometown or your school, it reflects badly on you and vice versa. On the other hand, your success makes the places you’ve been look good. If your hometown or your school does well that reflects well on you.
In other words, if you put your school down, you’re putting yourself down. When you boast about your school and make a name for yourself in the world, it makes the university look great.
It bothers me when people who go to Eastern or went to Eastern bash it. When you say negative things about your hometown or your school, outsiders believe it. I’m proud of the education I got here, and I’m happy with the experience I had.
I want people to know how good Eastern was to me because people are going to judge me based on the places I’ve been and I want them to know this is a good place to get an education.
A lot of people think it’s cool to bash the small town or the lame suburb. They think it’s hip to mock the mid-level university. But I’m here to tell you, you can’t run from where you’re from and you shouldn’t try.
You should be proud of where you come from. That’s what I learned at EMU.
I ran into someone in Chicago last weekend who went to Eastern and when he heard that’s where I went, he said, “I’m sorry,” and laughed.
That’s exactly the wrong message. While he thought he was making a funny, Eastern-deprecating joke, he was actually saying, “I went to a bad school, so there must be something wrong with me.”
The people around us who overheard that conversation probably thought he was right. He’s making himself look bad and he’s making all of us look bad. I intend to do the opposite.
I’m taking my EMU degree to Chapel Hill to enter a top-15 Ph.D. program in my field. You can do big things with a degree from here, pretending you can’t to make jokes or to sound cool, or worse, to make excuses for your personal failures reflects poorly on all of us.
Everything you do will reflect on Eastern, and everything Eastern does will reflect on you. You can’t escape it, so you ought to embrace it. That’s my final lesson, and I hope you’ll listen.
Take pride in where you’ve come from. Take pride in this place, in this school, in this city, in this community.
I’ll always remember Eastern as the place I met the girl I’m going to marry next Sunday (Love you, Honey) and the place I realized where I wanted to go in life.
I made great friends and I’m better off for having come here. I wasn’t over-the-moon about Eastern at first, but after four years I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. I’m proud of this place and it will always be home for me.