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Here in DC, election night was one of the most genuinely joyous scenes I've ever witnessed. People took to U Street, M Street, the White House, all over to celebrate President-Elect Barack Obama. Everyone was smiling, hugging, shaking hands, cheering, regardless of whether they were strangers or not. Pure communitas.
On Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1980, my 10th-grade American history teacher started class by unfurling The New York Times. She pointed to its triple banner headline: “Reagan Easily Beats Carter; Republicans Gain in Congress; D’Amato and Dodd are Victors.”
“Save this paper,” she told us. “This is the start of a whole new era.”
And it was. An era of unbridled deregulation, wealth-enhancing perks for the already well-off, and miserly indifference to the poor and middle class; of the recasting of greed as goodness, the equation of bellicose provincialism with patriotism, the reframing of bigotry as small-town decency.
In short, it was the start of our current era. The Reagan Revolution was the formative political experience of my generation’s lifetime, like the Great Depression, the Second World War or Vietnam for those before us. And in its intellectual and moral paucity, in its eventual hegemony, these years shut down, for some of us, the ability to fully imagine another way.
What has just happened has unlocked unfathomable energy from within America: blacks and minorities once again able to hope, the promise of a meritocracy once again and a rewarding of skills and experience, and optimism and pride that has been missing for years. I feel it within myself and see it within my classmates, friends, my city, and everywhere on the internet.
Change.gov is taking in applications for work, and I guarantee you many can hardly wait to sign up. I already did.
Summer is over and classes have begun. This year I'm taking a class on Al-Qaeda and the global jihad with Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA bin Laden unit prior to 9/11. Also a class on small/medium enterprise with a career USAID foreign service officer, a class on managing development with a career USAIDer and senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton (part of my class including, I hope, a stint at the development consultant Chemonics), a class on the internet with Al Gore's former technology advisor during the 90's, and a class on African development with a former vice president of the Africa region at the World Bank.
Also I am researching how global values shape communications technologies as a junior fellow for the Georgetown MSFS Yahoo! Fellowship this year. Check out our research blog.
This summer I spent two weeks in Barcelona (photos at Flickr) and went to Hawai'i for the International Achievement Summit. For the totally awesome details, read my write-up. I mean, I fucking saw Bill Russell and George Lucas, the most oddly-matched pair, walking and talking! And went through TSA security behind Ralph Nader (he made it through okay).
So things are fun and I'm getting to research academically exactly what I'm interested in pursuing professionally, which is a very fortuitous thing indeed.
I went in to the market earlier this summer but cashed out 100% again while in Barcelona for a loss. Market conditions have gotten far worse since -- and it all continues to feel very heavy. Scary.
The mozzies are back! And so is the heat. But rain still rolls in hard and fast in DC during the spring.
I just saw Mongol, an awesome movie about the life of Genghis Khan, filmed in China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, and made by a Russian director. I've been wanting for a while to add Genghis to Chung Ho, Alexander the Great, and Saladin as permanent ink on my back but haven't done so yet.
I'm not working for any other organization right now but am working on my business idea. I'm set to leave for Hawai'i in a couple weeks, so I'll have lots of pics. I also booked tickets to fly to Barcelona for a couple weeks! With at least eight books on my desk to read, all the travel will also provide time to finish them! And I'm such a nerd that that makes me happy.
One last thing: I received my program's Yahoo! Junior Fellowship for this upcoming year! So while the company itself is undergoing a mass exodus, its endowment is helping to fund my studies and allows me to work with a very interesting senior fellow. What an opportunity! Hooray! Thank you, MSFS and Yahoo!
The Georgetown Master of Science in Foreign Service program is wonderful. I'm just finishing up some work at USAID, I have mountains of reading for classes, and I've continued focusing on what I really want to do: start my own business.
I was immersed into development theory by my prof, a career USAID foreign service officer. And I studied telecom policy under the first Yahoo! Fellow at Georgetown, who's taking leave from the FCC. Furthermore, I've been learning the common language of SPSS and statistics. The most demanding class, however, is the least theoretical and classroom-based: social entrepreneurship. It's forced me to develop a business plan and video pitch for my business idea.
This semester I took Spring Break in Miami Beach for some beach, and then went to Colorado for some snow with a handful of my classmates. In the DC area, we just had our Spring Ball last week -- a decadent but fitting closure to the year. The weather just turned warm and the undergrads have already taken to the campus lawns in revealing clothing.
As the school year ends, I could not be happier about my decision to come here to Georgetown. It's just changed my life and outlook completely. The way I think about foreign policy, development, and financial issues is far more nuanced and investigative than it was before. It's shocking, to be honest. And I would say that my classmates feel the same way.
Petraeus and Crocker testified last week on Iraq. The degree of inwardness and obsession in the US was illustrated to me last night when I went to a lecture by two China experts on the rising impact of China on American foreign policy. The short version? The US is willfully giving up its influence in the world but not its attitude about its place in the world. The US will wake up one day and realize the rest of the world passed it by. That makes me, as an American, very sad. In the heartland of competition, we are refusing to remain competitive.
On the economy and the stock market, I would agree that the Administration's fiscal policy actions are irresponsible and new regulations won't make the sector stronger structurally, but for now the market got what it wanted and it's happy -- we're just going to see bad corporate earnings for a while. I am cash except for new Nintendo positions.
2007 finished with a flourish. My house threw an end-of-semester party (Iron Chef Georgetown theme), followed the next week by the MSFS holiday social. I
got my grades after I drove home to Dallas with one of my classmates who lives near me there -- grades were mixed. A's in Arabic and Globalization (History). A- in international finance. B+ in international relations theory (Victor Cha is a tough, yet fair grader). B in international trade (clearly not my forté).
This semester I am taking statistics, social entrepreneurship, political economy of international communications policy, and development orthodoxies. All the classes are fascinating and are exposing me to subject areas I know nothing about, yet relate intimately to the business idea I'll be working on for the entrepreneurship class. Bottom line? I'm bloody psyched.
I got an iPhone for Christmas. It really is as great as everyone says.
As for 2008, well, I am hoping Obama has stolen Hillary's aura of invincibility and will be elected. I watched the markets gap down more this morning than I've ever seen, and then saw the Fed reactively cut rates 75 basis points. Kind of scary. I'm glad I'm still all cash from November's vapor trading.
One more thing: you have no idea how much I wish to be in Melbourne watching the Aussie Open. It's one of my dreams to go watch it one year. (or many)