A Letter to Freshmen

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By Samuel Alvarado

Freshman year of college is less than a month away for the class of 2021, and high school will soon feel like it was ages ago. And now, you are about to start a new chapter of your life that will be unlike anything you’ve known before. It is alright to be scared, it is alright to be hesitant, and it is alright to be worried, for those feelings are only natural as the melancholic reminiscence of days in the known environment of high school are left in order to start anew.

The newfound freedom, responsibility, and opportunities that come with life at college are sure to be challenging to adjust to now that you don’t have parents watching your every move. Where once there was a required and early schedule, there is now the freedom to choose. You now have choices such as to sleep in until noon, stay up through the dead of night, or not go to a class because you choose not to (although you should just go to class). The task at hand is to find a happy medium between the newfound freedom of college and the possible consequences of your choices and actions. For instance, you could choose to stay out late every night for the first half of the semester and attend class but not do much studying. Fun, right? Unfortunately, the consequences of such freedom can be devastating. Your grades start to slack, and you end up losing scholarships because your GPA suffered from the lack of effort. I know that predicament all too well, as I made the mistake of not putting enough effort into my classes and ignoring those responsibilities. Because of the mistakes I have made, I urge you to be careful in how much freedom you give yourself when going out while the responsibilities of college go unnoticed. Now, college tuition and boarding are costly reminders that you are no longer in the relatively cheaper setting of high school. The freedom to make your own schedule and be more self-determinant is great when used properly to pursue the career you want and be the person you choose. Responsibilities, however, wait for no one and cannot be ignored for long.  You are no longer able to pass the blame onto someone else as easily or try to wriggle out of something you have done without some sort of consequence. Responsibility is learned whether you wanted to learn it or not.

The opportunities of college can be a welcome mediator between the freedom to choose and responsibilities. You are given many opportunities at college to see who you want to be as well as where you want to go in life. Whether you want a career in medicine or a career in art, the opportunity will arise if you are prepared to act. For example, I was given the opportunity multiple times through the UWF Kugelman Honors Program to be actively involved in volunteer work at the beach and getting to know student leaders. I was also given the opportunity to be a leader in the program and talk to current leaders about leadership positions currently held by Honors Students at UWF. I chose to go after these opportunities and gained new responsibilities while making advances into the field I want a career in by taking steps to show my leadership skills and potential. These opportunities were presented to me by a fellow Honors Student who was a leader in both RHA and the Kugelman Honors Program. With the support and encouragement of my wonderful fellow Infinite Wisdom Staff Writer Jade, I am now the Secretary of RHA. The only reason I now have the opportunity to show who I am now and what I can do is that I changed my ways from the beginning of my freshman year to the end of it. I still take time to be free, go to the beach, and relax, but now I can better balance the fun with the responsibilities of college life. With my current leadership position, I am responsible for helping other people make college easier for themselves, and I would not have been able to do this if I had not chosen to change how I handled my new found freedom. College is all about trying out different things to see how you will respond to them such as student organizations, fitness classes, courses in varying subjects, and new life experiences.

If you learn to balance your freedoms and responsibilities while going after new opportunities in college, you will be all the better for it. How you do it is up to you, but I would suggest from experience that you seek the advice of peer mentors who can help steer you in the right direction.

Planting Good Relationships

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Photo by Samuel Alvarado

By Samuel Alvarado

Relationships between people, whether platonic, romantic or even with oneself, are like plants. Relationships and plants both require care, maintenance, and space lest they stagnate and die. I have had a wonderful “garden” of relationships for a while, but it is no easy feat to maintain.

I find that relationships and plants share several key characteristics, and I have noticed these similarities throughout my life. A plant or relationship can grow only when it is properly taken care of with the necessary sustenance, room, and care. Our relationships provide us with the steady stream of care, love, and motivation needed for us to grow.

Plants need the right balance between rich soil, sunshine, and water as their primary sustenance. Relationships between people also require sustenance by having substance in shared experiences. The parallels are clearly seen when the sustenance of relationships and plants are taken away, as neither a relationship nor plant can last long without attention and care. Sustenance for a relationship comes from being rooted in the lives of others, just as sustenance for a plant comes from being rooted in the soil.  Just as plants need water regularly, relationships need regular attention to ensure their longevity. With sustained maintenance, relationships can last a lifetime.

Most plants need space to expand, or they will stagnate instead of growing as they should. Without space, plants may be forced to recede into corners or against walls while trying to grow in what little space they have. Relationships too need space, as every person needs the opportunity to grow personally and, by virtue, grow the relationship with deeper self-knowledge. Most people need some time alone to better understand themselves so they can better function with others. At times, a person may pull or push away from those closest to them, and this new space may make it easier to focus on deep personal issues. The time alone, however, should not be extended without purpose because the need for social engagement is just as important as the need for space and privacy. A little self-care can help a person thrive in relationships because better self-awareness can allow for greater contributions to the group of relationships.

Plants need care when they grow unevenly, have been hurt, or become diseased. By the same principle, a relationship needs care when it has been stressed, damaged, or unloved.  Care for a plant may involve adding more nitrogen, adding a splint, or transplanting it after its pot broke. For relationships, people need to communicate effectively about what has strained the relationship and what needs to be done to rectify any damage. It does not bode well when one friend pours out their heart to another with little reciprocation or recognition. This apathy, however, broadens a growing divide in a relationship. When trust is broken, promises are left unkept or feelings are hurt; these issues need to be remedied promptly for fear that they ruin both relationship and the person who had been cared for before. When properly implemented throughout the life of a plant or relationship, the effects of intentional care can be seen clearly. Intention care is a necessity to foster our health and the health of the natural specimens we foster.

Callous handling of plants and relationships leads to the ruin of each. Therefore, I hope people learn to treat their relationships as plants. A plant may provide fresh oxygen and fruit, just as a relationship may provide companionship and love that every person yearns for throughout this journey we call life.

I could say that my garden of relationships has always been calm and full, but that would be a lie. Coming to college, I came in knowing one person, and I felt more alone than ever. My garden was nearly empty from relationships falling into disrepair or being intentionally burned. Now, after a year in Pensacola, I have a garden of flowers, cacti, and herbs that I love to see grow as they have helped me grow.

Make America Think Again Part 2: Civility

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By Samuel Alvarado

Candidates for the presidency of the United States of America should be qualified in areas such as experience, civility, and civic mindedness. It is not befitting for a candidate to feel entitled to the presidency, especially if these qualifications are not met. An ideal candidate for the presidency of the United States of America would be a person who not only has experience in government, but also has the civility to govern the great citizens of this nation we call home. In my first article, I discussed experience as a quality greatly desired in a candidate because it makes a candidate better prepared for the difficulties of leadership, and I would advocate that civility is a quality that is required in any leadership position.

Civility entails a person who can respect the position of his or her ideological opponent. Civility refers to having the humility to understand that we are all humans at the end of the day, and should be decent towards one another, as people with different perspectives and ideas should be able to do. Many leaders these days are crossing the line of civility, as they wish to be less politically correct, and blunter with their constituents. However, this incivility comes at a price to both their candidacy and constituents, as it sets a precedent that is not one to be proud of.

Both parties in American politics are guilty of a lack of civility. A prime, and recent, example of the lack of civility would be the 2016 presidential election. The 2016 presidential election was among the most ruthless and pessimistic elections experienced in recent history. In the past election, there was far too little focus on the platforms, and more of an emphasis on the scandals, such as Benghazi and email scandal for Clinton along with the tax return scandal for Trump. The point of being politically correct is to minimize the damage that one is responsible for with their words. Our words have the potential to bring people together or to divide them. Being politically correct is, at its core, being understanding of different people in hopes of being able to work with them effectively. Because of civility, we can more easily make a deal, reach a compromise, and understand each other’s points of view.

When we are civil with one another, we can bridge political divides and make compromises that allow society and government to function  A world without civility is a world with much more ruthlessness, anger, and tribal attitudes. We, the citizens of the United States,  must be able to understand how certain words can trigger a negative response from others, such as calling people “illegals,” “hacks,” or “idiots”. These small acts of agitation will add up to make people bitter towards working with those who have been insulting them. Having a sense of what to say, or not to say, can go a long way for future political discourse. It is understood that the current president was uncivil and politically incorrect throughout his campaign. However, Hillary Clinton, who some would say has maintained an excellent political record for more than 30 years, made a lapse in judgement when she callously characterized Trump supporters. Clinton may have the experience, but she lacked the civility at a moment when civility was her greatest asset. Trump could not have been a better foil for Clinton’s esteemed civility, but she lost that high ground when she got down in the mud. The characterization of Trump supporters as belonging to a “basket of deplorables” was insulting. Trump made various missteps in civility as well by characterizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, rapists, and criminals, as well as offending many others within the country, such as the media, the freedom caucus, and other countries. We can see here that both candidates lacked a level of civility during their election campaigns.

It is time for the return of civility to American politics. The return of civic dialogue between the two polarized political parties would greatly benefit the United States of America.  In hopes that our representatives can work together to secure a better future for the citizens of this nation, we can hope, and we can change these bad habits ourselves. This change of callous dialogue does not happen overnight, and we can not expect our politicians to be more civil if we will not subjugate ourselves to the same measures and expectations.

Make America Think Again Part 1: Experience

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Photo by Samuel Alvarado

By Samuel Alvarado

In the United States of America, there have been marches, protests, and riots in reaction to the current Trump administration. It has only been a month since Trump has taken office, and he has caused more division as he thrives on the fear people have and has used it to propel himself to the oval office as a savior for Republicans. I see that we have elected an inexperienced, egoistic man to the highest office in the country we all call home as Americans. Currently, it seems that we have lost touch with what to look for in an electable leader.

Here in the United States of America, we have elected a man to lead an increasingly divided nation in hopes that he can “Make America great again.” However, many are in dismay with President Trump’s leadership already, as his rhetoric alienates the Democratic left of the nation. He seems to only focus on pleasing the conservative republican half of the nation that helped to elect him. With actions that seem reactionary at best, President Trump has only furthered the polarization between the democrats and republicans. The increasing polarization brings up the idea of how we see a solid foundation for leadership. Since ancient times, leaders have risen and fallen as they were tested by the challenges that presented themselves during their tenure. If anyone was an option for president, I would interject he or she would have the three qualities of relevant experience, flexibility, and civic mindedness.

An ideal candidate would have relevant experience in leadership, or better yet in government. Experience is important as relevant experience in local or state leadership can go far in helping run the national government. Some examples of recent candidates for president with relevant government experience would be Bernie Sanders, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie. Experience in government is not necessary to be president, but it is helpful in the transition of power and adjustment to the highest executive branch in the land. Just as experience in an executive board translates into a more effective executive president, a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America should be expected to have experience in similar leadership conditions. The experience of being on an executive board, for example, may help the council president to serve his or her post with better judgment and by extension a better ability able to take on the challenges that come with the job. Whether a person is a leader in a state governorship or in a position as small as an executive board member for a student organization, any relevant experience can only help leaders better serve the people who elected them to their current positions. A candidate who has such experience in government will better understand the limits of his or her own power and how to interact with legislative and judicial bodies. This experience would better enable any president to govern with the understanding that he or she is nothing without the consent and approval of the people.

Going forward, every move a leader makes has direct impacts on the people who he or she governs and, as such, any leadership position demands great care and responsibility. An example of a country that President Trump has insulted and will affect us most evidently is our southern neighbor, Mexico. Mexico has already begun talks to divest from U.S. companies and reduce imports from the United States of America if President Trump continues to strain relations with demands for a border wall and vitriolic insults at Mexico’s expense. If a trade war breaks out because of President Trump’s policies, it will directly affect the American people as any Mexican import would be subject to a tariff and American businesses would have a surplus of products that are primarily exported to Mexico.This is just one example of the possible effects that an inexperienced leader can have on his or her people and the people that they interact with. President Trump’s comments could lead to drastic actions and scenarios because his comments can be seen and interpreted by anyone and in any way. Because Trump has no prior experience in governmental leadership, it would be wise of him to consider the impact of his words and actions. Now, I am not criticizing Trump as a person, I just believe that his actions so far as a leader have not met the criteria for what I consider to be an effective leader.

President Trump has made several controversial decisions in his time as leader of our country. It is in my opinion that these decisions were made because Trump does not already have the proper experience needed for his position. I do, however, want to say that we can still hope that as he serves as President of the United States for the next four years, that he will gain the experience he needs to truly make America great again.