Madeline Hopper '21
Dear writer of “Columbus Day, Vindicated,”
Before I begin, while you sent a letter to the Editors-in-Chief (EiC) of The Exchanged, a group that includes myself, David Donoghue ’21, and Nisa Quarles ’21, I was one of the editors who supported our publication calling October 12th Indigenous Peoples’ Day. My opinions do not represent those of Nisa nor David. Furthermore, they do not represent those of The Exchanged’s staff or the publication itself.
The truth is this: Italian American heritage is important. According to The United Census Bureau estimate, there are 17.8 million Americans of Italian descent, of which I am one. While you may try to justify celebrating Columbus Day as a day to honor Italian heritage, in my opinion, reducing Italian American heritage to the actions of one man dangerously risks the undermining of the broader Italian story in America. Italians faced anti-Italian and anti-immigrant hostility at the beginning of the 20th century (Sacco and Vanzetti’s contentious trial, for example). Until doing research for this letter, I didn’t know about this story in depth (Diavolo, “Instead of Columbus Day…”). Advocating for the honor of other Italians in America could provide an opportunity to learn more about these stories. To most Americans, and certainly to the United States Government, Columbus Day is not about these stories of the Italian American journey; it is about Columbus himself.
That being said, you are right, Columbus has made significant contributions to American history; he was a pioneer of the system of colonialism that caused the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. After Columbus helped “discover” America, as the governor of Hispaniola, he forced Indigenous peoples of the Bahamas into slavery and cut their hands off if they didn’t bring him enough gold (Klein, “10 Things You May Not Know About Christopher Columbus”). The fact that your letter states that Columbus Day is and should be about “honoring a man who … made some of the most significant contributions to American society” is intensely egregious and highly offensive to Indigenous peoples in our country. Our country has always prioritized the stories of Columbus and disregarded those of Indigenous peoples. Even today, in schools across the country, learning the names of the ships on which Columbus sailed is considered to be more important than learning about the stolen Indigenous land upon which we live. Calling the renaming of Columbus Day an effect of “cancel culture” is extremely disrespectful to Indigenous peoples and tribes who even today are still grappling with the effect of Christopher Columbus. For example, the federal government doesn’t allow Indigenous Peoples to manage their reservation’s land, causing an inability to start businesses on Native Land and profit off of natural resources. Today, one in three Indigenous peoples live in poverty (Regan, “5 Ways the Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty”).
I agree with you on our school’s decision to call October 12th Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but I am dissatisfied with the schools’ approach to October 12th. As they so often do, they stayed neutral. I challenge the administrations on the Close to show allyship to their students by calling Columbus Day, what it is recognized as in DC: Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Columbus himself is not someone to “honor.” As an EiC who aims to make everyone feel comfortable and valued, I personally could not allow our publication to stay neutral during a holiday which normally celebrates the beginning of European domination and genocide in the Americas. I hope this letter provided you some clarity on why I made the decision I did. Again, I only represent myself and the choice I made for the paper. The staff, the other Editors-in-Chief, and the writers may or may not feel differently.
On some level, I believe your letter is a check on the kind of education and discussions we need to continue to have. There is a group of opinions, like this one, that doesn’t seem to see the light on the Close, a place some consider to be a liberal bubble. While I sharply disagree with your opinion, I want to encourage this kind of discourse further. As you and our readers comment on this letter and talk about these issues on social media, please be courteous to each other. The Exchanged will delete all anonymous comments and all comments aimed towards the writer and not the writing itself on our website.
Christopher Klein. “10 Things You May Not Know About Christopher Columbus,” August 31, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-christopher-columbus.
Lucy Diavolo. “Instead of Columbus Day, Italian-Americans Should Celebrate Sacco andVanzetti Dayon August 23.” Teen Vogue, n.d.https://www.teenvogue.com/story/columbus-day-italian-americans-celebrate-sacco-vanzetti-day-august-23.
Shawn Regan. “5 Ways The Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty.” n.d. https://www.indigenouspeoples-sdg.org/index.php/english/ttt/536-5-ways-the-government-keeps-native-americans-in-poverty.
Sasha Perkins '22
If you are actively interested in learning past the headlines of the latest politics, or you want to stay well informed to debate your friends on the Close, here are the best podcasts to keep you updated without having to actually read anything.
The Daily, by The New York Times
Up First, By NPR
The NPR Politics Podcast, by NPR
The Journal, by The Wall Street Journal
After you’re done stressing about the state of the world, here are some non-political podcasts that can give you a breath of fresh air.
Views, by David Dobrik and Jason Nash
The Read, by Kid Fury and Crissle
Anything Goes, by Emma Chamberlain
Potterless, by Multitude
Teddy Palmore '23
During the 2016-2017 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. After the season, the 49ers refused to renew his contract and Kaepernick entered free agency. For many teams, signing Kaepernick would have been an upgrade - however, as of today, he remains unsigned. Although many fans supported Kaepernick’s use of his First Amendment to protest peacefully, it angered some. At a 2017 rally for Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange, President Trump declared, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.’” Kaepernick’s high-profile protest sparked a movement among athletes that remains strong to this day.
The backlash from Kaepernick’s protest was massive. Opponents of Kaepernick’s protest believe he disrespected the flag and, by extension, military members. Furthermore, many believe that athletes should stay out of politics altogether.
Nonetheless, athletes are people too and are allowed to voice their opinions just like anyone else. Such figures have uniquely large audiences to voice these opinions and spread awareness among their fanbases.
Additionally, our military does not fight for the American flag itself, but rather the things it represents – our country’s freedoms and rights. The flag symbolizes the United States, its Constitution, and its people. Americans fought during the Revolution, the Civil War, and the two World Wars to protect the United States’ sovereignty and values, including the Constitution. Kaepernick’s expression of his First Amendment right to peacefully protest during the national anthem does not disrespect members of the military; on the contrary, protesting injustices and the use of free speech celebrates the rights so many have died to protect.
Although Kaepernick was by no means an all-time great, he was, at worst, a solid starting quarterback. When his contract ended in 2017, many teams could have upgraded their offense by signing Kaepernick. For reference, Mitch Trubisky and Brock Osweiler both started the next season. If Kaepernick’s skill was up to snuff, why wasn’t he signed? The reason is apparent. Colin Kaepernick remained unemployed because he protested police brutality and institutional racism during the national anthem. Many NFL owners were unwilling to be controversial or socially progressive despite the offensive upgrade Kaepernick would have provided.
Now take a step back and look at the whole story. Kaepernick’s peaceful protest of police brutality and systemic racism, existential injustices People of Color (POC) face in the US, resulted in his exile from the NFL. The owners sacrificed the success of their team for the sake of staying out of the fray and trying to avoid both political controversy and the negative repercussions which Kaepernick’s hire may have brought to their personal brand or team.
To many, Kaepernick’s protest crossed a line; yet, those same people are surprised and disgusted when violence breaks out. So what, in these peoples’ minds, is the right way to protest? If an athlete can’t use his platform to peacefully raise awareness about systemic racism without being exiled from his profession, how are the oppressed supposed to voice their grievances? Herein lies the fallacy in Kaepernick’s critics. They take issue with Kaepernick peacefully kneeling and are surprised when peaceful protests become violent.
The exile that Colin Kaepernick faces due to his peaceful protest during the national anthem is an excellent case study in the suppression of voices calling for change. Today, Colin Kaepernick continues his work as an activist. Athletes across all sports have begun to follow his example. They protest and spread awareness to their audiences about institutional racism. The NBA, MLB, WNBA, MLS, and NHL all postponed games out of protest in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. The owners of professional sports teams are no longer able to suppress these voices: there are so many athletes in solidarity with the movement that exiling all of them is an impossibility. The same holds outside of sports: the more unified a group is, the harder those in power have to work to suppress their voices. Unity gets the job done.
So speak up and speak out. Never let your voice be silenced.
Throughout my time at St. Albans, I have heard a lot about the St. Albans Man. I always wondered what differentiated a St. Albans education from the education that you would get at any other school. Our curriculums are not radically different, nor do we explicitly focus on preparing students for life after St. Albans, so why are we different? After much thought, I came to realize that our teachers are what makes St. Albans Men.
I think the greatest strength of our faculty is the diversity of opinions and the freedom they have to teach their class how they please. At St. Albans, teachers often aren’t constricted by standardized curriculums, which not only allows them to teach what material they want to but also gives them the freedom to pass their personality and wisdom on to the students. This means that whether or not a student enjoys a certain teacher’s class or teaching style, they can learn valuable lessons that extend outside the classroom from understanding their teachers on a personal level. I doubt I would be the person I am today without the influence of all my teachers, whether I had a good experience in their class or not. These teachers are what makes St. Albans so special, and in a way, I wrote this article to try and repay them for the impact they have had on me.
As all of you know, our school will be reopening on October 26th. For brevity’s sake, I will not argue the merit of this decision, but only some of the repercussions it is having on our community. Recently, the District of Columbia had it’s most new Covid-19 cases since June, which signals that at least, the virus is not going away any time soon. Fortunately, as a student, I have been given the choice to either go to school in person or to continue learning from home when we reopen. Unfortunately, this choice is not being extended to the most important part of this institution: the teachers. As of now, teachers are being put into a few categories that will decide how they proceed with returning to school. If a teacher is over 60 years old or is the primary caregiver of someone over 60 years old, they will not be required to return in person. If a teacher has a preexisting health condition or is the primary caregiver of someone with a preexisting health condition, they will also not be required to return in person; however, if a teacher does not fall into one of these categories, they are faced with a bad choice. They can either return to school in person, risking their health, or they can take unpaid leave, risking their financial security. This is an awful choice for anyone to make. Whether or not they are at serious risk of dying to the virus, it is undeniable that Covid-19 has both major short term and long term repercussions for people of any age. On the other hand, if teachers don’t want to risk getting the virus, they lose their primary source of income in a time where the economy has been very unstable. Out of these two options, there is no good choice.
In addition, this makes me ask why teachers of all ages and conditions can’t teach from home if they choose to? If there are already teachers over 60 teaching from home, why should teachers under that age be forced into a lose-lose situation? There is one phrase I have heard more than anything else in my time at this school, ‘Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.’ Why does that not apply here? No human being should be forced to choose between their health or their financial security, let alone people so integral to the functioning of this institution.
This is a choice that is being forced onto people all over the country in this trying time. Thankfully, in this situation, we have a real opportunity to make a meaningful change. I don’t have a solid solution, but if we organize and advocate for our teachers together, we can repay them for all they have done for us. I can not emphasize how important this really is.
Thank you, and enact the changes you want to see,
An Anonymous STA Student.
I was shocked and disappointed to see the administration of St. Albans School rush headlong into the culture wars around the naming of Columbus Day. In every previous year the official calendar of the school deemed the second Monday in October “Columbus Day,” the federally-recognized name of the day. Rightly so; it is not at the whim and fancy of a secondary school to serve as some kind of star chamber for the naming of our federal holidays.
But not in 2020, when cancel culture runs roughshod over our national annals.
An examination of the School’s official calendar for this year reveals only a mysterious “Fall Holiday” on October 12. The fact that St. Albans actively broke with years of its own traditional nomenclature makes its intentions all too clear, and is by no means a “neutral” or “nonpartisan” change: “Columbus be damned!” the School has said. It is disheartening that an institution which prides itself in its traditions and which professes to represent the views of its entire community has opted to sacrifice the Italian explorer upon the altars of social justice.
(The Exchanged, it ought to be noted, made its revisionist perspective even more explicit, terming Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day” in the “STA Events” column two weeks ago.)
A vindication is in order.
Columbus Day is not, despite what its detractors allege, a day rooted in hate and bigotry; it is in fact a day founded in opposition to racial prejudice. The first national celebration of the day on October 12, 1892 (the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing) came in the wake of the bloody lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans: The nationwide observance buttressed President Benjamin Harrison’s reconciliatory effort towards the Italian-American community. In other words, racial healing — not racial prejudice, as many nowadays allege — is central to the story of Columbus Day. It is no coincidence that many Italian-Americans view the commemoration as a celebration of their heritage and identity.
But equally important is the reality that Columbus Day honors our national founding and history. The United States was, after all, founded upon European ideals and customs, and Columbus Day offers an opportunity to recognize the values for which our nation stands by honoring a man who, as a daring pioneer in the exploration of the New World, made one of the most significant contributions to the American story.
The celebration of those “values” by no means constitutes bad faith revelry in the history of Native American exploitation. The recognition of social progress has always been a central component of the day, and the principles it salutes are ones open to any person regardless of their ancestry, sex, preferences, or creed. It is a worthy venture indeed to honor the significance and legacy of that monumental day in 1492 while also recognizing some of its shameful implications.
Columbus was a flawed man, and his cruelties were many. But let not his personal failings overtower the reasons we celebrate Columbus Day; instead, let them provide an opportunity to examine the nuances of an important historical moment.
Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day are not mutually exclusive; they honor two very different, albeit interconnected, truths of our national endeavor. The notion that they are somehow in competition is as damaging as it is anti-historical, and the only tragedy is that the organizers of Indigenous People’s Day feel as if they must crowd out Columbus from the date of his landing by scheduling their holiday on the second Monday in October. A culture war has been created where none should exist.
Should there be a holiday celebrating the indigenous peoples of this land? Absolutely. Should it fall on Columbus Day? Absolutely not. Pitting the celebrations against each other is as harmful and offensive to our nation’s Italian-Americans as it is to our indigenous communities. More fundamentally, it flies in the face of what Columbus Day is all about.
One only hopes that St. Albans School will recognize the same.
Roque Miranda '22
The social and economic ramifications of lockdowns and closed public spaces have taken an incredible toll on our country. A rise in suicide and mental health problems, unemployment rates higher than the great recession and comparable to those of the great depression , and social isolation all raise the question: was it really worth it?
There is no doubt that one of the main roles of government is to protect those who reside in its nation. Thus, it becomes very easy to brand those who want to reopen public spaces as prioritizing matters such as the economy over human life. However, the reality is much more nuanced; suicides have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic . Women, African-Americans, and Hispanic Americans have seen a 40% increase in suicides while young Americans (18-29) have seen an increase close to 50% . The suicide rate has increased so greatly in some areas of the country that in May, doctors from a California hospital reported that they encountered more deaths from suicide than from COVID-19 . This shouldn’t be a surprise; unemployment not only provides incredible economic struggles, but also deprives individuals of their sense of self-worth and meaning. To quote former Vice President Joe Biden, “a job isn’t just about getting paid, it's about your dignity.” Persevering through economic hardships is extremely difficult, a situation magnified by the pandemic, if individuals feel undignified. It is possible, however, for the economy and public spaces to reopen during the pandemic, which would protect employment, and to preserve the lives of those who are most vulnerable to the virus if safety measures are executed properly. Reopening our economy and reopening public spaces would relieve people of stress and feelings of worthlessness that they took on during lockdown. It would bring our nation back to a healthy and happy one while again protecting those who are immunocompromised.
So, how should we maintain public health as well as keep public spaces and the economy open? The assumption that lives and livelihoods both cannot be protected when dealing with a pandemic is completely untrue. Countries that implemented full lockdowns, such as the United States and Italy, were not as successful in curbing the effects of the virus compared to others such as South Korea and Iceland . Nations of the latter group implemented more targeted measures such as isolation of the sick, mass testing, and contact tracing. South Korea, a country that interacts greatly both economically and politically with China , surprisingly was able to “flatten the curve” better than most nations. Citizens were required to call a national public health hotline if they showed symptoms of COVID-19 and were accordingly directed to testing sites. If an individual tested positive, they were then put in a hospital or isolation center . Despite a small lockdown in Seoul in May, South Korea’s approach allowed for retail shops, restaurants, and businesses to remain open during this crisis . Broad lockdown orders and closures of public spaces fail to address containment of individual cases and have proven to be less effective in softening the blows dealt by COVID-19. If the United States applies the same targeted measures that South Korea implemented, we would be able to reopen public spaces, increasing happiness in our country while maintaining high standards of safety. It is essential that the United States fully reopens as soon as possible to ensure the livelihoods of hard-working Americans are protected; life and livelihood don't have to be in conflict with one another.
As stated earlier, restrictive lockdown orders, which harm the lives of every American, must be replaced with targeted safety precautions so that public spaces can reopen. Protecting the immunocompromised, implementing public health interventions in areas with high infections rates, encouraging the private sector to develop and support voluntary isolation centers, and expanding testing capabilities are all positions our policy-makers must stand by now, and in future pandemics, to ensure that public spaces remain open and that both the physical and mental health of everyone in the nation are prioritized simultaneously.
Tayo Ball '21
Amid Covid-19, American society has been longing for a sense of cohesion. The “leader” of our country has done little to nothing to convince people that any positive trend regarding the control of this virus exists, and many citizens, including some people in power, are hesitant to listen to science. Restrictions have been ignored and potential solutions that have been successful in other countries have been disregarded. The last thing that this nation needs to do is reopen public spaces. This action would disservice the country by delegitimizing COVID-19, exposing the public to a realm of unsafety, and distracting the public from the social issues plaguing our country.
The primary issue is that reopening public spaces right now would delegitimize the threat of the virus. Many people would believe that the virus is no longer significantly affecting America since public spaces are inherently deemed safe. This could not be further from the truth, as several states, such as Tennessee and Montana, have reported a recent increase in Covid-19 cases. With the reopening of educational facilities, children and young adults are once again entering confined spaces. Constant supervision is impossible, and adding this condition to reopening public spaces would convince younger generations of Americans that the virus is not of concern. This would cause a skyrocket in cases, pushing America back into the same state of quarantine we experienced earlier this year and promoting a cycle of premature reopening. All this cycle does is prolong the effects of COVID-19 on America. To make sure that reopening is safe, it is important to listen to public health officials and take the precautions necessary to properly reopen spaces.
So far, the political party that leads this country has set a low standard for guiding the nation through this pandemic, and the aforementioned plans for reopening have adhered to the same standard. They have shown an inability to take the virus seriously or enforce restrictions which prompt the American people to operate proactively. If this political party remains in power, then the public is destined to meet a worse fate concerning reopening. Government officials have continuously failed to listen to public health officials and experts. They have turned safety precautions, such as wearing a mask, into topics of political debate. Clearly, the best interest and safety of the American public is not their priority.
Since the closure of public spaces and adjournment of many popular pastimes, there has been a heightened focus on the racial injustices that have plagued this country for generations. Though these injustices have been ever present, it was only after the closure of public spaces that they were brought into a light visible to the entire American population. This influenced change in a revolutionary way which will affect generations to come. However, there is still much work to be done. If public spaces reopen now, then all of the progress made regarding the combat of racial injustice will be replaced as pre-quarantine distractions return to the forefront of everyone’s attention. Until there is a concrete understanding of how America will work towards creating a better future, then it is important that public spaces remain closed.
In terms of how the reopening of public spaces could influence the Cathedral Close, a variety of possible risks could endanger the community of the three schools. For one, a sense of carelessness displayed could set the wrong example for the students. These young adults will at some point be making decisions that heavily influence this country’s future, and it is of the utmost importance that the ones in charge now are setting the right example.
Henry Brown '23
Last Wednesday, I was scrolling through Twitter when I stumbled upon Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s endorsement of Joe Biden. As a (reluctant) supporter of the former vice president, I was interested in why he was endorsing the ticket. However, immediately, the cringe factor was too unbearable – it’s an awkward Zoom format where they greet each other as if they’ve been best friends their whole life. You’ll know what I mean if you watch the first five seconds (linked below). The Rock starts off by endorsing Biden and Harris, citing how they’ve both led with “great compassion” and “soul.” He praises the California senator’s work as a state attorney and how Joe Biden believes one should “earn respect.” In response to this, the candidates explain that they will earn the trust of the American people by being honest and acknowledging that problems exist. Then the clip ends. I wasn’t the only one who was disheartened by this. There are six thousand more dislikes than likes and the comments are filled with people saying that this caused them to lose their support for The Rock. Apart from the cringe levels, why was there such a backlash?
As one comment reads, “this entire thing [looks] forced and fake.” Now, as menial as a single YouTube comment may be, it perfectly encapsulates a large part of the Biden campaign’s strategy. Instead of focusing on the support of labor unions and climate activists, the campaign seems much more interested in celebrity endorsements. It’s pretty obvious when his Instagram is filled with Taylor Swift baking Biden cookies and “get out the vote” videos by the beloved Michelle Obama. The world the Biden campaign wants to see is one where on Netflix it will say, “If you liked Fast & Furious, you might like Biden-Harris 2020.” Sure, the campaign needs all the help they can get to oust Donald Trump and a celebrity bandwagon might seem like an easy way to boost Biden’s chances. However, the more athletes, artists, and actors are “ridin’ with Biden,” the harder it will be to separate politics from entertainment come next year. Additionally, this election is almost entirely anti-Trump. Let’s face it – Joe Biden has an abysmal record. While in the Senate, he worked with Republicans to cut Social Security, he authored a crime bill that many say contributed to mass incarceration, and he sometimes confuses his wife and his sister (yes, it’s true). If an endorsement is tied as closely to a campaign as The Rock’s is, it makes it impossible for the celebrity to relate to the rationale of swing voters. He can’t just say that both options are bad to Joe Biden’s face – that’s just mean.
Dwayne Johnson also just isn’t your typical voter. He's a multi-millionaire, a wildly successful actor, and has name recognition everywhere. As such, he didn’t endorse Biden because of his health care policy or plans to support veterans. He endorsed Biden because of the former VP’s “compassion” and “experience.” While these may be admirable qualities in a president, they are nowhere near the top of the list in terms of concerns of the American people. Millions have lost their job-tied healthcare due to the pandemic. Police face little to no repercussions when they murder innocent Black people sleeping in their own beds. And we are on track to see more hurricanes than any season before. If the Biden campaign wants to actually win over voters with endorsements, celebrities should focus on the concerns of their fan bases rather than their own. Take Cardi B’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders last summer. Before the interview, the artist took to Instagram and asked her followers what they wanted to ask a Democratic candidate. Based on that, she made her best judgement as to which candidate best matches her fans’ interests, not her own. In their interview, they talked about the importance of education and reinvesting money from jails and police departments into the futures of disadvantaged children. They discussed the injustices of the healthcare system and how in no other developed country you have to pay thousands to give birth to a child. They also talk about the importance of young people in the political process. Cardi B didn’t endorse Bernie because of his experience or some other vapid platitude as The Rock did for Biden. She endorsed him because Bernie had solutions for the problems of her fans, even if she wouldn’t be affected herself.
Since the Bill of Rights was enacted in 1791, the United States has granted every citizen the right to speak their mind, especially when it comes to politics. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and celebrities need to use their voice wisely. The over-used Dwayne Johnson approach runs the risk of seeming too elite, almost like he said, “I don’t care about the petty little problems of the American people.” While this surely was not the intent, it gives off that vibe when the three neglected to discuss the cataclysmic events at hand, whether it’s the economy, climate change, or systemic racism. Celebrities should take Cardi B’s approach, sitting down with the candidate (or over a video conference) to discuss the issues that matter to their base of support. Whether you like the artist of “WAP” or not, at least she shows that she is looking out for the well-being of her fans, the ones who elevated her to stardom. The American people need to know someone has their back – it’s what we need now more than ever.
The Rock’s Endorsement: https://youtu.be/THR4l0MJLu4
Cardi B’s Endorsement: https://youtu.be/p1ubTsrZFBU
Wife-Sister Switcheroo: https://youtu.be/wacY29iMuUs
AnnaSophia Nicely '23
If we were alive a hundred years ago, we probably couldn’t have guessed that in the coming centuries, almost the entirety of human morality could be found in a click and swipe on a screen. Celebrities and their star power have been a prevailing aspect of culture for decades, but the scope of this power has never been as influential as it is now. In this digital age, forming a political opinion and sharing it is as easy as opening a computer. Almost everyone has access to this ever-expanding pool of political information, regardless of affiliation or level of truth. Whether you see this as a perk of modern technology or downfall, the truth remains; modern media provides just as much political socialization as family and friends. And who, you might ask, controls the majority of this media influx? That’s right, the stars.
Now that we know that the scope of this influence isn’t debatable, let’s take a look at what is: Do these stars actually affect voter outcomes? Or, even more subjectively, where must the line be drawn for this direct influence, if at all? How do we decide who gets to speak up and who doesn’t?
First of all, this modern “star power” influence has had mixed results. For example, in the 2018 midterm elections Taylor Swift was incredibly public in her support of Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen. In the end, he lost. Similar situations have taken place with many other high-profile celebrities, including Rihanna and Travis Scott, as the candidates they publicly endorsed also lost their elections. In fact, after the 2004 presidential election, a study found that friends and family were more influential than celebrities on young voters. The report concluded that "Celebrities may have looked pretty, but they were not particularly influential on first-time voters.”
However, star influence has not always failed in the bigger picture, as it has existed since the birth of modern celebrity around the 1920s. In fact, President Kennedy was famously backed by an array of high-profile social justice leaders, while Warren Harding won after receiving public endorsements from a raft of film stars. More recently, research conducted by the University of Maryland credits Oprah with bringing Barack Obama more than a million votes in the 2008 Presidential Primary process. And even though Taylor Swift’s Senate candidate lost, research shows that her political activism has sparked interest in millions of young voters around the country. So now that it can be said that the influence of star power has at least somewhat parallel successful outcomes, what are its benefits and dangers?
Many reporters and professors who have studied the effects of celebrities in the political field break down the scope of their influence into two main factors: the celebrities’ political credibility and the level of “constructiveness” of their arguments. A common example used to differentiate these two sides is one involving Oprah Winfrey and Kanye West. Because of her political background, Oprah is “credible” in her political beliefs, meaning the public is more likely to trust her on these topics because she has a range of experiences with them. On the other hand, one expert on the topic, Professor Lucas of the University of Birmingham, told the BBC, "I would distinguish that type of celebrity influence from let's say, listening to [Robert] De Niro because he flips off the president. I think you've got to have more of a constructive approach… If Kanye had said something that was comprehensible and that was meaningful, then Kanye has got a contribution, but when Kanye does what he does, he becomes a figure of fun and everybody on the Republican side was quite happy for him to drop out of politics, whatever that meant." Professor Curtice of the University of Strathclyde states that the "[c]elebrities are fine so long as they are generating favorable publicity, but they can sometimes end up generating unfavorable publicity because they're not necessarily always politically nuanced."
When all the smoke of credibility and constructive arguments clears away, we are left with very few solid answers but the same simple truth we started with: celebrity influence is real. At the same time, it’s an individual’s responsibility to choose who to listen to and respond to. This has never been as important as it is now, as we near the November elections with record numbers of new voters registering. We must use the information the media presents to us with caution but also with an open mind, always considering who is credible, who is constructive, and even more importantly, who is spreading a message of hate and lies and who is spreading one of acceptance, love, and positive change. Above all, it is important that we think for ourselves and learn from our experiences. Only after listening to our own hearts can we turn to take influence from the hearts of others, no matter how dazzling their star power might be.
Julia Sherman '22
The Postal Service has been around for longer than the Declaration of Independence. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin became the first postmaster general, and since then, this age-old system has helped shape our country and the way we communicate with one another. It has evolved from letter carrying to package carrying and from connecting post offices to connecting individuals. In addition, the USPS is again and again ranked as the most popular federal agency (74% excellent/good), receiving similar support from Republicans and Democrats. Through years of change, the service has survived crisis after crisis. It is no secret that the United States Postal Service (USPS) needs help to survive the crises of today, but privatization is not the answer.
The USPS is the only public service in the United States that is legally required to serve every household in the country by delivering mail six days a week. It’s also one of the only ways that people in rural and Native American communities can stay connected. The USPS is required to deliver to everyone, and their affordable flat rates reflect this duty to serve all. Conversely, serving everyone in the nation is something that private companies like FedEx or the United Parcel Service (UPS) are not required by law to do. Since rural and Native communities do not generate large amounts of revenue like bigger cities do, private companies do not build offices in these areas. This leaves the USPS to be the only connection between those communities and the outside world.
Some of the voting rights of those communities would not be guaranteed if the USPS was privatized. In Minnesota, 130,000 people who live in small towns will have to vote this year by mail because there is no polling place near them. With mail-in voting in the upcoming election being especially prevalent due to COVID-19, the USPS is as important as ever, and rural communities should not lose their voice in this country. Private companies cannot guarantee an office in smaller towns and communities, so those ballots might not be mailed and counted.
The USPS currently does not have any competition in the country, meaning most private operations are not big enough to sustain true, national postal delivery. Again, this would lead to less nationwide voter participation in rural areas if the service were to be privatized. These rural areas also do not have access to the internet in the same way that urban areas do, so mail is sometimes the sole form of communication for many individuals. There are also essential goods that the USPS delivers, such as medication, groceries, and, as stated earlier, ballots. These are things many would not have access to if the USPS became private.
The USPS employs around 500,000 people, of which 16% are military veterans and 43% are non-white. Compared with the national averages of 5.8% and 22% respectively, downsizing the USPS would affect those two demographics more than anyone else, and these workers would lose government benefits as well. Additionally, private companies would work to employ the cheapest employees possible. So, even during the COVID-19 pandemic when postal workers are considered essential, these companies might not protect the safety of workers in the same way the USPS has to.
The USPS was not founded to be business or turn a profit, but rather to provide a necessary public service. Yes, the USPS needs federal support, and it won’t be cheap. However, Congress must work together to bail out the USPS; it provides for the public good, and privatization should have no place in this essential service.
Due to the personal and controversial nature of these articles, all comments have been disabled.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.