By Nick DAngelo
“You write in order to change the world,” argued 20th-century social critic James Baldwin. “If you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” I have always loved writing, the challenge to persuade that inevitably accompanies it and the opportunity to do both through the Concordiensis.
For two years (and a year before that, as a Contributing Writer and Staff Writer), I have used this column to advocate passionately for the causes that I have felt most important.
In 50 columns and a dozen articles, totaling nearly 50,000 words, I have hoped to preserve the integrity of this campus and to promote the voices of individual, sometimes forgotten, students.
I’ve analyzed campus policy, critiqued administrators and commented on national politics. Through it all, the response has been mixed. I’ve heard everything from, “Who do you think you are?” to, “I can’t believe you did that,” to, “It’s about time someone said something.” But my writing has often sparked conversation.
Regardless of what that conversation has been, I have always been proud of my service to the Concordiensis. I have worked diligently to craft precise words and to blend any criticism into a structured, cohesive argument. Even my critics must grant that this work has never been cobbled together, but deliberately and analytically labored through.
I am a strong believer in straightforward, even blunt, honesty, a trait I inherit from my mother, and she from her mother. My mantra has always been that if you feel comfortable saying it, you should feel comfortable printing it. Moreover, never print anything that you would not say in person. I am confident that this personal philosophy has served me well.
I’ve striven for the intellectual ferocity of George Will of the Washington Post and the graceful wit of Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, while always drawing on inspiration from my own hometown journalist, Phil Reisman of the Journal News, who uses humor and stories to fuel structured arguments. In fact, in a letter earlier this spring, Reisman joked that we were mutual fans of each other’s columns.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with another graduating friend, who wondered who would take on her duties and extend her work when she left campus. After four years of effort, it is hard to simply let go.
While I do hope there will again be “Notes from Someone” gracing page 5, I have also been proud to be the lone columnist. In many ways, and perhaps to the great relief of some, this effort largely begins and ends with me.
But this column was never about me. More than anything, I hope to have created a springboard for the next generation of students.
Our campus rests on a foundation of probity and accountability. It is a virtue protected by the individual, and a public liberty that can only be guarded by the diligent involvement of the student.
Margaret Thatcher, another perpetual outsider who fought her way in, was fond of repeating the words of Lao Tzu: “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become your character. And watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Having lived by that advice, I now pass it on to the next generation of writers.
To those who have encouraged me to write, those who have read my column with enthusiasm every week and those who have aided me in this effort, I cannot thank you enough.
An equal debt of gratitude goes to all those who taught me how to fail, who argued against me and who cut me down to size. A combination of these efforts fosters self-reflection and personal growth, which has made my time writing for the Concordiensis a cornerstone of my undergraduate career.
Frequent readers and good friends will recall my great love of country music. In 1985, legendary troubadour George Strait released one of his sixty hit singles, “The Cowboy Rides Away”:
“And my heart is sinking like a setting sun, setting on the things I wish I’d done. Oh, the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say. And this is where the cowboy rides away.”
It’s the classic cowboy ethos: completing a duty with the regret that more could not be accomplished.
For me, riding against my own setting sun, there is little regret, though. Instead, there is simply a longing, and a strong belief, that as this sun sets, another quickly rises.