4th Quarter, 2008
Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship
Eduardo was born and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, where he lives with his father and grandmother. He attended the Jesuit Regis High School in Manhattan, where he discovered a passion for ancient languages, including Latin, ancient Greek, and biblical Hebrew. In his spare time he plays flamenco guitar and bass in a punk band, The Insurgents. He will be attending Yale University in the fall of 2009.
A Portion of Eduardo’s Winning Essay:
Thanks to my favorite senior year course, Classical Political Thought, I have decided to devote myself to a life of study of Western/Christian philosophy.
Our year began with the study of Plato’s Republic, considered by many to be the founding text of all Western philosophy. Within the text, I was captured by the ideas that Plato presented. The idea that struck me the most was his theory about the Supreme Good. Plato maintained that the key to happiness was to follow the Good. That people who do good things are truly happy, and that people who do not follow the good, despite being rich in material possessions or in power, have nothing but a superficial happiness that covers their true inner misery.
His assertion came as a stunning revelation, almost as if it was something I had been waiting to hear my entire life. Gone were all the fears that “good people finish last,” or that honesty and integrity are not truly valuable for their own sakes. Throughout my life I had made similar observatons as Plato, that often it is the people who are most willing to backstab and lie and cheat that make it to “the top.” I was always troubled by this and felt sick to my stomach when I entertained the possibility that good actions and honesty might be lofty ideals but things which lacked any true purpose in real life.
Throughout my junior year I was often discouraged by the actions of my fellow classmates. I had several friends who managed to finish the year with very little work but very high grades and numerous academic and extracurricular honors. By copying answers, forging papers, and exploiting connections with friends in higher grades, some students were able to succeed in the classroom and grab the highest positions in school clubs. The rest of their time consisted of partying on the weekends and generally having what I considered “a good time.”
I made these observations and wondered if this was not the best way to do things. After all, these students were doing the minimum amount of work with the maximum pay off and the most free time to enjoy themselves. And I will not lie, I have also been guilty of copying answers or homework assignments to save time and go off to do something that I had more interest in doing.
However, I had done this only one or two times, as in the back of my mind this path always left me feeling dissatisfied and incomplete, although I could not articulate it. Looking back on that feeling, I can best describe it as emptiness. It was almost as if I was aware of my true potential, and the potential in each of my classmates, and I realized that the potential in each of us had been left unfulfilled.
Nevertheless, I did work very hard throughout my junior year and I felt very refreshed at the beginning of my senior year after a summer of relaxation. I was ready to hit the books hard, and was especially looking forward to CPT, or Classical Political Thought, with my favorite teacher, Mr. Connelly. I already touched on one of the prime revelations I felt after reading Plato, and how much it changed my attitude about integrity and character. The change did not just relate to the conflict I was facing regarding cheating in school, but to every aspect of my life.
When I saw my classmates having fun and spending their weekends partying while doing very little school work I had wondered at how much fun they were having compared to me, sitting at my desk and trudging through lines and lines of homework assignments.
As the months passed in CPT, I began to notice a change. I was no longer envious of my partying class mates, but I was beginning to feel bad for them, and more importantly, I was beginning to feel happy for myself. After all, I was genuinely enjoying the material I was reading. And, once I finished the daily hours of material we had been assigned, I felt very accomplished and energetic, even if it was as late as two in the morning. The satisfaction did not come from a sense of superiority; there are some students who work very hard in school out of arrogance, specifically for the purpose of making themselves feel better and superior to those who do not work as hard as them. Rather, it came from a sense that I had things to do and I did them, honestly, without cutting corners or using calculation or trickery to get them done faster.
One of the most important areas into which this attitude of life has extended is in my relation to my friends and family. I think it is common for teenagers to disagree with their parents; I still disagree with my father frequently on numerous matters. However, I sense a difference in my interactions with him. Whereas I used to only leave the argument satisfied if I felt that I had “won,” I now only feel guilty about fighting with my father, and regardless of who is right, I feel a sense to apologize and make amends. It takes a certain amount of effort to overcome the pride and “lay down your arms,” but I always feel more at peace once I am able to step up and apologize. After all, he is my father.
As the year continued, we began to read more authors such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. I began to delve more and more into this strange, new world of “the Good,” and I began a transformation into a much more spiritual person. This class, and the things I was learning, as well as the way in which I was learning, was a sort of learning unlike any other I had experienced before in my life. There was no memorization or calculation involved; it was hard work, but I did not feel even an ounce of strain, and the meaning of “effort” came to lose the sense of pain and sheer willpower it once contained.
My attitude transformed and I began to see what was wrong with my previous thinking: I used to think that certain things such as material wealth, power, success, wit, cleverness, and others were the true key to happiness. After all, it was people who had clawed their way to the top using these attributes who seemed to receive the most recognition and have the last laugh. However, even though the world continued working in this way, I stopped seeing this sort of success as “happiness” or as holding any sort of truth.
It is for this reason, for the happiness that such studies have provided me, that I am hoping to pursue a college career in the study of Western/Christian philosophy and the pursuit of the Good when I begin at Yale University next fall. I hope to study ancient Greek and continue my study of Latin in order to read these ancient works in their original form and to continue cultivating the happiness I have felt in reading and internalizing their words. I do not know into which career path my passion will lead me.
I could easily see myself becoming a professor, lawyer, politician, or doctor now, because I feel that the Good is not just something to be studied. It is something that, once studied, must be carried out in one’s daily life and work. I hope to continue to study the Good and to carry it out in whatever career path most calls me. I thank you for considering me as a candidate for your scholarship. I hope that you will see my study of the Good as a worthy cause for your help.
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