Monday, July 29, 2013

Joshua A. Ko: An American Life

"To make one's self as pure of heart as one is capable of becoming, to put fear and cynicism and craftiness behind one, and to abandon one's self to the reflection that if the simple truth will not do, then nothing will."

- The Prince, Dostoyevsky's The Idiot

And here we are, 228 days since the great academic adventure that is the Ivy League Connection Yalie journey began. Eight hours before I rudely awaken myself (by choice, mind you) and head to El Cerrito High School to board a shuttle to an airport to take me to another airport and take the Yalies and our wonderful chaperone, Ms. Tracey Singh-Poole, to one final airport where we'll begin a college tour before starting an intensive 16 day Grand Strategies course at Yale as Global Scholars. Just typing that sentence felt draining. We are going to exert all the effort and tenacity and work ethic and determination and perserverance in the world, because we plan to prove that the West Contra Costa Unified School District BELONGS at institutions like Yale. And to think I once thought one sentence ago that writing this post felt difficult.

You could say we're under a lot of pressure. You would be half right. Am I nervous, eight hours before our nineteen day excursion? Of course I am, but there's also this inner peace and calm that I have inside. And trust me, it wasn't because that's who I normally am. You see, this summer, I went through numerous life-changing experiences that shaped the person I want to be going into this trip. And the miracle of the narrative of this summer is that the lessons I learned prepared me for Yale as well as the required readings did.

"Often there is a gap between principles and actual events that cannot always be bridged by a succession of logical deductions. Then a measure of self-confidence is needed, and a degree of skepticism is also salutary."

- Clausewitz, On War
Camp Royal was advertised as a life-changing experience. The skeptic in me went in a skeptic. He came out a believer. The leadership camp, held somewhere in the California Nowherelands, taught me an incredible number of ideals about how to be a great, mindful, thoughtful leader and person. The experience forced me to open myself up and be willing to admit my faults, and I truly saw the good in humanity. There's a wealth of knowledge to share and not enough time, but I will be posting more about how my summer affected my ILC experience when I get back. I will share with you the phrase Tashi deley: a Tibetan expression that means "I honor the greatness in you. I honor the place in you that holds your dreams, your courage, your hope, and your love." A good leader knows his people.

Loni Hancock's Chief of Staff office
After a restful family vacation to Vancouver (A good leader takes time to rest), I headed up sixty minutes to Cal State Sacramento for the 76th Session of the American Legion California Boys' State. I was to be a delegate of a political experience that would challenge everything I had just learned. Delegates (all rising senior boys from all over the state) ran for different political offices and worked as journalists, musicians, lawyers, and such. In this incredibly realistic simulation, I saw firsthand the corruption that permeates every level of politics. After recently completing Machiavelli's The Prince and remembering The Art of War, I saw the top two gubernatorial candidates get "sued" for money laundering and slander, respectively, and overlooked the hostility and competition that loomed over the week. I saw imaginary wars break out and boys fooling the legal system and getting away with the hundreds of simulation dollars they had stolen. Boys' State was the antithesis of Camp Royal. It showed me the evil in humanity and the corruption of power. It made the readings I had just done feel more tangible and applicable to me. A good leader gets things done that will serve his people.

"The result is that there is no place in public life for an honest and moderate man."

- George F. Kennan

Ignore the fact that I attempted dressy
on top and casual on bottom
Not counting one day of rest (and I wouldn't call running around to errands and activities rest), I traveled immediately from Sacramento to Manitou Springs, Colorado, where I underwent a two-week apologetics and worldview conference at the Summit Hotel. The conference bridged the two previous experiences I had had. It acknowledged the real world while giving me the tools to survive out there. I learned how to defend my beliefs and ideals. Logic and critical thinking were extremely important and well taught. I read John Lewis Gaddis's George F. Kennan: An American Life and appreciated reading a biography of a man who worked hard to understand the Russians in order to fulfill the most of his duties with Russian-American relations. A good leader defends his positions, and even Clausewitz points out that defense is the most essential part of war. 

"...experience counts more than any amount of abstract truths."

- Clausewitz, On War

After getting back, it was time to rest up...not for Yale, of course, but for my third annual Relay for Life, a 24-hour cancer walk. As co-captain of my team, we raised $1800 for the American Cancer Society. Walking through the dead of night was tiring and difficult, but it was an incredible experience, which is why I do it year after year. Seeing people like cancer survivors and caregivers walk the track reminds me of the struggles that cancer patients go through year after year. As I walked, I realized how lucky I was to have a great team dedicated to helping each other relay for each other's lives. Great leaders have great advisors. 

Heading into Yale, I've learned how to see people differently. I've learned the ideals of being a good leader and have seen the corruption that I will have to face later in life. I've read thousands of required reading pages and learned how to defend my positions. I've learned how to relate to people as a person and as a leader, and how to get things done. I hope to bring back a great wealth of knowledge and give back to the wonderful community I'm proud to be a part of, and I sincerely thank you for following me on my journey. 

Follow us on our college tour throughout this week! Send me feedback by commenting below and emailing And for a more intimate look at my Yale experience, follow me on Instagram @joshthebosh to see a more visual Ivy League Connection. Please note that you won't be able to hear about any of the seminars, discussions, etc. at Yale due to their privacy policy.

"He had a historian's consciousness of the past, which gave him a visionary's perspective on the future."

- John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life

We're off in nine hours. Will you join us?

1 comment:

  1. It’s a shame you couldn’t find anything productive to do with your summer. ☺

    I think I’ve driven through those California Nowherelands. Pretty country but the Wi-Fi sucks.

    And that place where you spent a week seeing the corruption at the highest levels of our state government, that’s where I’ve lived for more than 40 years.

    I know that much of what you experienced was the “make believe” part of things but I can tell you first hand, Josh, that the real world there is much scarier and much more disgusting. This blog is not the place to go into the details lest people in other parts of the world begin to think that the US isn’t perfect. But bring a big enough bottle of Dr. Pepper and some ice and we can have a real discussion. [Normally I’d have you bring a big bottle of tequila but you’re still underage and I have to be the responsible adult here.]