By the time this is published, I will have officially completed my B.A. in Political Science. The celebration won’t be how I pictured it, as is the case with every other student graduating this year, but the party isn’t why you do the work.

When I finished high school in 2016, the original plan was to major in theater. For a myriad of reasons, I knew I had to do something different as my second year approached.

That winter, I binge-watched The West Wing on Netflix over break. I got as far as “He Shall, from Time to Time,” as Leo’s first conversation with Bartlet after the latter’s MS diagnosis was revealed was unfolding, to decide that this was my new favorite show. I was seeing government officials doing their best to do right by their constituents and trusting each other.

Only a month before this binge-watch, the 2016 election had occurred. I walked into my beginning acting class the morning after, to see almost everyone looking depressed and confused. Almost. It turned out that a classmate whom I had thought of as rather dashing was an avid supporter of the president-elect. It was clear I didn’t understand my community like I thought I did.

During my senior year of high school, I had two incredible teachers, the kind that you’re lucky to get once. They changed the way I saw their subject matter completely. One was my English teacher, who taught me that Austen and Shakespeare didn’t have to be soul-sucking, and literature class could be something you could look forward to doing the assignments for. The other was my social sciences teacher.

She opened every class with the one-minute clips BBC News makes every day, managed to connect what we saw in the news with the day’s lesson, and taught me why politics shouldn’t just be a thing I take as a cue to tune out at Thanksgiving dinner.

I began to see politics, in its own strange way, as theater. If anyone wants to get into any elected position, they have to put on an act. Might not be on the same kind of stage, but the principle is the same—put on a show to enthrall your audience.

I had spent so long being afraid of college, knowing I didn’t have a field I was passionate about yet, that could keep me interested enough to write my papers for class, take my 15 credits a semester plus summer school, and not leave me feeling completely burnt out. I had it now.

I am now the first on my mom’s side of the family to finish college, but if I manage to get a job in my field, I already see I have barely scratched the surface. We don’t know yet how a pandemic affects national elections, how our candidates will rise or fall as time passes, and why or how their constituents will react.

But I can’t wait to find out.

Kate Ozawa

behindthemask mask

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