Freedom and Justice
Summer College 2013
Hello everyone, my name is Luke. I am a rising senior at Redwood High School in Marin County, California. I'm super stoked for this summer at Cornell, and I hope you all are too. I will be taking Freedom and Justice in the Western World, and hope to get to know my classmates and other Summer College students across campus. I write for my school's newspaper, the Redwood Bark (feel free to look me up on our website), and am the president of my school's mock trial club.
Aside from academics, I hope to find some musicians to jam with, since I am bringing my bass (I'm currently debating over whether I should bring my upright or electric…) with me. I also plan to write for the Summer Times and slay the competition in intramural sports.
As I stepped out of the elevator and into my dorm floor on the first day of Summer College, a colorful, paper-stenciled sign caught my eye: "Cornell is Gorges." At first, I wrote this off in my head as an embarrassing misspelling, but now, having spent a mere week at Cornell, I would say that this is an understatement.
A deeply cut artery that bisects my route from dorm to class is Fall Creek Gorge, across which I walk every day. From the very first day of Summer College, I came to understand that the word "sheer" describes both the steepness of the cliffs as well as their unmitigated beauty.
I had been told, prior to Summer College, to remember the mantra "work hard, play hard." This has been a guiding principle this past week; I have read dozens of pages of biblical and Platonic texts, but have also taken walks around campus, ventured into town, jammed with fellow musicians, played pool, and shot a few air balls at the gym.
Although many intramural sports were cancelled this past week due to the weather, I still look forward to participating in them in the following weeks. Also, be sure to look out for this coming issue of the Summer Times, which will publish three times before I leave.
Looking back on this past week, it is amazing how much I was able to cram in while still having time to just relax in my dorm or sleep. Just as it is difficult to fit an entire semester's worth of college curriculum into three weeks, it will be hard to explore all Cornell has to offer in my remaining time at Summer College.
The Fourth of July came with no pomp and circumstance, no spectacle or pageantry; it went as most nights at Cornell do: a few hours of studying, a casual game of pool, then off to bed. As a matter of fact, much of my Fourth of July was spent in a lecture hall learning about age-old European philosophers—it was decidedly unpatriotic and anticlimactic to say the least.
This sacrifice of America's birthday, however, came with a silver lining. Instead of having the day off on Thursday, we were given a three-day weekend, which more than made up for the lack of patriotic holiday spirit. During this extended weekend, I finally got a chance to get a feel for the Cornell campus in a greater sense.
As the weekend began, my friends and I explored the residential area of the Cornell campus, and then we went to the east side of campus. The sheer size, scale, and grandeur of Cornell continue to amaze me, and I know that I have only seen a portion of it. With only one day left of Summer College, I am both surprised and disappointed that I was only able to go on one hike out of the miles of trails and wilderness by which Cornell is surrounded.
As long as I'm being reflective, I might as well throw it out there that these three weeks have, as I suspected they would, flown by. I came to Cornell expecting to learn about Freedom and Justice, and I have. But in doing so, I have learned about college life, myself, and, most importantly, life in general. Having been exposed to extensive amounts of political theory, I have learned that the words of Biggie Smalls ring true: "We can't change the world unless we change ourselves."
I am no longer staying up late pondering what Plato would have thought about American democracy. I am no longer racking my brain in order to highlight the differences between classical feminists. I am no longer meticulously picking through the dense writings of Marx in hopes of deciphering the concept of estranged labor.
Although it has been a month since my first class and a little over a week since my last, I have still not stopped thinking, somewhere in the back of my mind, about the precepts of freedom, justice, and equality. This, I believe, is a testament to the power, rigor, and lasting impression of my short, three-week stay at Cornell's Summer College.
Needless to say, my class has affected me in many ways since I have returned home. Not only do I talk my friends’ and parents’ ears off about Western political theory, I find that I actually view the world differently and make decisions based on the things I learned at Cornell. This is a novel phenomenon for me. In high school, I absorb knowledge and tend to forget it immediately after the test. There is really no ostensible way to apply Newton’s Third Law or the Law of Sines to my everyday life—further, there is no reason to do so. What was so unique about Cornell's Summer College was that I not only learned an immense amount of knowledge in a relatively short period of time, but that I was given the tools to change both my way of thought and the moral infrastructure by which I guide my decisions.
In conclusion, I greatly hope that my path will intersect with this great university once more, and that I will time and time again enjoy the fun, rigor, and wisdom that Cornell has to offer.