I first came to Brandeis University as a brash and capricious 18-year-old, ready to take on all the challenges that college would throw at me. I looked forward to meeting new people, understanding diverse world-views and forming an overall better rounded opinion of life.
Now, as I write my last op-ed as a student at Brandeis, other than now being 19, I cannot think of anything that has really changed in that regard.
What has changed, however, is that I believe I have learned a great deal about both myself and others, not only from Brandeis, but from Boston. As I have previously written in the Justice, issues such as a competent public transportation system that connects both transit depots and suburban universities to a sprawling city are important for the rest of the country to take note of. Similarly, eschewing the death penalty with a criminal justice system based on justice would be especially helpful for my home state of Texas.
However, more than any divisive, partisan issue, the people of Boston have taught me a valuable lesson in resilience. Whether that is the unyielding loyalty to their sports teams that any fan of the Houston Texans football team, like myself, could learn from, or a determination to continue on with business as usual no matter the how cold it gets or how extreme the conditions, the people here do not give up.
In my native Houston, temperatures often become extreme on the opposite end of the thermostat, with summer months regularly boasting highs above 100 degrees. The only response to the scalding heat is to turn up the air conditioning and eschew any and all outside activity that does not feature an ice-cold swimming pool. Boston does not resort to comparably drastic measures when the cold comes. Massachusetts winters bring snow, often by the foot, but we—for I now consider myself a Bostonian in part—continue walking to class or our place of employment.
We spend hours on end shoveling the snow and salting the roads so that we can keep going no matter which nor’easter or blizzard may try to stop us. People who grew up here may think this is a silly or superficial point, but I cannot stress enough how different a culture this presents. Regularly battling against the forces of nature is no small point in explaining a unique determination.
This determination was shown to the world last April, when Boston was rocked by a terrorist attack that ultimately took four people’s lives and wounded hundreds more. When a citywide manhunt ensued to capture the suspects and bring them to justice, we gladly worked together to catch those responsible for the heinous acts. Nationwide, the general public dubbed the reaction “Boston Strong,” an honorific given to the great resilience of this city.
I believe it is this resilience that helps foster so many excellent universities in this city, with Brandeis being, in my opinion, the most excellent among them. This resilience, this strength, gives us the courage to become truer to the person we really are deep down.
I believe this is how Brandeis helped me to learn about myself. For me, I define myself a lot by my political views. As someone who was considered very liberal in Texas, I felt like my opinions would be considered quite popular at Brandeis and looked forward to that experience. But in many cases, they were not popular. Ironically enough, my views are probably more conservative than that of the average Brandeis student, and that has been just as rewarding a learning experience. I would not have it any other way.
Brandeis has given me the strength and resilience to understand exactly where I am on the political spectrum, and to come to grips with all of my own views. What use would political opinions be if they were only clearly defined on one side of the spectrum? Since I have now had interactions with many people both more conservative and more liberal than I, I have been able to mark out my own space. Simply put, Brandeis has allowed me to acquire the knowledge to better define myself and the pliancy to put that person to good use. Certainly, I have become a much more rounded person, but most importantly, a better defined one.
And I do plan on putting it to good use. Beginning next semester, I will transfer to the University of Texas at Austin, where I will seek new professional opportunities. Accordingly, this will be my last column for the Justice. While my brief sojourn in Boston was tough, between Hurricane Sandy, the blizzard Nemo and the marathon bombings, it has been an experience that will help shape me for the rest of my life. For no matter which Big 12 conference team I will be rooting for next year, I will always be a “Judge.” And no matter where I hang my hat, I will always be “Boston Strong.”
Noah M. Horwitz published a weekly column, “Civil Affairs,” in a Boston newspaper from 2012-2014. He has since transferred the column’s home to Texpatriate.