Tag Archives: education

The Pioneer Spirit

“Pioneers! O Pioneers! Come my tan faced children…..” as Walt Whitman goes into his poem, you are brought into a world of the Pioneer Spirit. He was writing about a time when the country was expanding at leaps and bounds, a time when the promise of gold, land and a new beginning were just beyond the horizon. But, did you have the gumption to go forth?

I received an e-mail from my old college professor, Dr. Jack Sullivan. He invited me to a dinner he hosts.  We haven’t seen each other in quite some time and he wanted to make sure I would attend the American Studies major alumni dinner. I made sure to block out the date on my calendar, because he is someone I admire, respect and always look forward to spending time with. When I got to the dinner, I saw a few familiar faces, but mostly people I never met before. Since we all shared a common background, I knew we would have an enjoyable time. Towards the end of the event, a current AMS student came to meet up with Dr. Sullivan. She was writing her senior thesis and he wanted to give her draft back to her with his notes. I got caught up in their discussion, and remembered why I became an American Studies major.

I always enjoyed history, but American Studies was more diverse thinking. We studied literature, art, music and history. It is not for people who are unwilling to take a few chances. More than anything else, studying American culture past and present gives one the critical thinking skills that are invaluable in an ever-changing world. I was discussing with the current student that with my American Studies major, I was able to apply for a variety of different jobs right out of college, and I ended up in the publishing world. Since broader analytical and writing skills were necessary for American Studies, publishing seemed like a great fit. Jack stopped me and said, “you know Nick, you were one of my first American Studies majors. Usually students were American Studies majors along with another major, like education, or they were American Studies minors, with a major in something else. You were a pioneer.”

This had me thinking the whole ride home. I’m a pioneer, me, Nick DeVito, a pioneer. Of course it makes sense, why wouldn’t I be a pioneer? By the time I got home to talk to Katie, my head barely fit in the door, because of all the pioneer blood in me.  I told her the story, of course making sure to stress the fact that Jack, my advisor, my mentor, someone I respected, someone who is friends with Cornel West, called me, ME, a pioneer. I was ready to conquer anything at that moment.

After thinking about it a few days, and of course reminding Katie (over and over) that she married a pioneer, I came to a few conclusions. Yes, I am a pioneer.  I like to know about the past, so that I can learn from it for the future.  I like to be on the forefront of things, including; news, books, technology, new opinions/outlooks/thoughts.  I like to know what’s in the pipeline, what’s next, what’s new. I also like to look at things that don’t work, and change them, make processes easier, cut through the red tape. I actually never thought of myself as a pioneer, and I’m sure the folks who went westward at first didn’t either; they just wanted to know what was out there, what’s next, what’s new.  Get out there and find out.


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Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

Today Honest Abe would have been 201 years old. There are many things and questions written about Abraham Lincoln; things written about his speeches, did he have a death wish, was he clinically depressed, how tall he was and what his favorite jokes were.

During President Obama’s run for office, he quoted Lincoln often and even made the book “Team of Rivals” very popular. Every presidential candidate at some point in his run for office quotes Lincoln, hints at comparisons to Lincoln, and claims they know what Lincoln would have done if he were alive today.

I don’t think Lincoln knew what he was going to do half the time. While he was one of the smartest men to ever hold the office, I think Mr. Lincoln didn’t always have a pre-determined plan, but thought things out fully before making decisions.

Think about it, Lincoln was a self-educated man, with about 18 months total formal schooling, with the rest learning on his own. With his own schooling, he became a lawyer, a House Representative for Illinois, and President. To self-educate, you need to read extensively, and also interpret and come to some sort of conclusion on your own. There is nobody there to guide you to an answer, or even give you one if you don’t know the answer. Lincoln had to have spent his entire life thinking this way. It was the only way he knew. He had to think of every single situation going on and every thing he read from multiple angles and come to some rational understanding on his own. To me, this seems why Lincoln was a calm man. He knew there was more than one side to a situation, and he usually thought about the other two and three sides before anyone else, it was innate. This also gave him the confidence in knowing that the decisions he made were the right decisions.

This is why Lincoln was fully capable of running his own campaigns, writing his own speeches, assembling a strong cabinet, freeing the slaves, and saving the Union. When he set out for the Presidency, did he think states would actually secede from the Union, pushing the nation into a civil war, or have to free the slaves sooner than later? I doubt he saw most of that coming, but when it arrived, he knew he had the confidence to handle whatever situation was put in front of him.

Lincoln was always thinking outside the box because he knew that was his advantage to everything.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We all take different paths in life. Some of us are on the express train to law school, while others are on the local and it seems like they are not sure which stop they are getting off. I’ve always known where I wanted to go in life, but I never got there the way others thought I should. For example, when I thought about going back to school to be a teacher , I signed up for the LSAT to become a lawyer, because eventually, my thought process was, with a law degree, you could teach. Why would I even think about going to school for education when I could just get a law degree.

While sitting in a classroom at NYU Law School taking the LSAT, I thought to myself, why on earth am I going to law school, it’s really hard, very expensive and every single person that I know who is a lawyer is telling me not to go to law school, especially if I want to teach. But, I passed the exam, and even got a small scholarship notice to a law school on the West Coast. I never told that to anyone, because by the time I received that letter, I was already over law school before it even started. I was going to go back to school for teaching, an idea I had always had in the back of my head but never went at it straight on.

Going back to school for education led me in a completely different path than I would ever have imagined. I moved back to New Jersey, reconnected with some old friends, and wound up running into my now wife at the local Starbucks. If I would have gone to school directly for education after my undergrad, or instead of taking the LSAT first, who knows where that path would have taken me, but I would not have learned the things I did along the path that I chose. Also, I didn’t make me feel that I was pushed into doing something I didn’t want at that time. It’s like when a baby takes his first steps, you try and try and try to help him get that first step, but the moment you turn your back on him, he is up and walking towards you very wobbly and excited, because he did it on his own.

I always tell people, whatever you decide, its the right decision, because you made it and that is what works best for you. Yes, sometimes you have to take others thoughts, ideas and considerations into your conclusion, but ultimately it’s what you decided upon.

So make sure to think clearly, and own the decision you make, because it’s yours.

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