January 26, 2011 16:11 Age: 3 yrs

Alexander Kass 13L Admission Essay

I ripped off the sticker I should have been wearing as a badge of honor and threw it into the yellow garbage can that sat by my bed. It was so torn and crumpled that through my tears, I could no longer read the lie written across it: “I Voted Today!”

In retrospect, I should have known. My second-grade class had spent so much time studying the office of the president and the election that my inability to vote should not have been such a surprise. But I became so engrossed in the candidates that for the months preceding the election, it was the only thing in my life. I discussed policy with my mother, at least the policy that I could comprehend at the time. I watched political television with my parents and sat up waiting for Dana Carvey to open Saturday Night Live with his impression of President Bush. I knew about the president dating back to the images of the Gulf War that played on my television. I saw how cool Bill Clinton was when he played his saxophone on Arsenio Hall and I remember my boredom as I watched Ross Perot show countless tax graphs as he went on about balancing the budget. My interest in politics reached beyond the candidates in the 1992 election. I even researched some former presidents on my own; I was engrossed in books about Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and F.D.R. I knew more about the office of the president in second grade than I did about the Cleveland Indians, and they were my team. For the months preceding the election, there was nothing else in my life.

So when my parents told me it was time to vote, I was ecstatic. My smile stretched across my face and I spent the car ride recounting the reasons I had selected my chosen candidate.

My heart started to beat faster when we walked into the church where my parents vote. When I saw the voting booths, my grin grew larger still. And when the poll worker asked me if I wanted to vote, I blurted out “yes!” without any hesitation. She handed me my ballot and told me how to use it, even as I grabbed it eagerly from her hands.

But when I opened it, I didn’t find the names Bush, Clinton or Perot. Instead, I read questions that defied logic: “Which do you prefer at baseball games, hot dogs or hamburgers?” and “Who was a better president, Washington or Lincoln?”

Were they serious? This 8-year-old-vegetarian was not amused. Hot dogs or hamburgers? And how could you compare two presidents who altered the course of history so significantly? I stared blankly at the ballot until my parents returned from the voting booths, at which point the poll worker took it from my hands and pressed that lie onto my chest as I walked away speechless. The tears didn’t come until I was safely ensconced in my home.

I can’t tell you that some epiphany about my future washed over me in those moments of despair, while I stared blankly at the ballot or as I cried into my pillow at home. I didn’t suddenly feel called to the law. It didn’t happen.

In fact, I lost hope. In many respects, I walked away from politics, history and the social sciences, areas I had expected to make my life in, and focused on other things—mainly the Cleveland Indians. I didn’t stay up to see who won the election; I didn’t watch Bill Clinton’s inauguration or the Clarence Thomas hearings on TV. Where I once aspired to see my name, too, on the ballot, my career goals changed and changed again. I considered jobs that were math-based, or that relied on my love of cooking. No matter the efforts I made, though, my interests always wended their way back to the social sciences. I joined speech and debate in high school after my parents told me that finding the flaws in people’s arguments was not the polite thing to do. I took classes in college like Constitutional History or East Asia and the West. As much as I may have tried to walk away from or change my interests, they were ultimately a part of me.

I became a more meticulous researcher as I grew older and understood what led to my voting day devastation—namely that in my eagerness to look into the candidates and what they stood for, as my parents had, I overlooked the key fact that I was not yet old enough to vote myself. To ensure that I would never again experience such disillusionment, I became more inquisitive. Spending time in speech and debate made me skilled at winning an argument and eventually, instead of thinking that my future lay in politics, I began to consider the possibility of a career in law, where I could use the skills I had cultivated each day.

I decided to test my persuasiveness through sales, and from my first month at work I was among the top sales associates in the company, both at Radio Shack and at Bank of America. I was promoted and had the opportunity to both teach and manage, but while I was effective in my new roles, I wasn’t using the skills I loved. This only served to reinforce my decision to go forward with a future in law.

I was asked recently why I wanted to attend law school and the answer came easily. It enthralls and intrigues me how the meaning of one word can change the meaning of a sentence, a paragraph or an entire decision. It fascinates me that one decision could set a precedent that affects so many lives in so many different ways. To me, it’s amazing that a case on contraceptives yielded both a privacy doctrine that made abortion legal and family privacy decisions that sometimes allowed domestic abuse to persist. It has taken some time and different experiences for me to get to this point, but I am confident that the skills I have developed thus far have come together in a way that will make me successful in law. I could tell you that I want to save the world or fight for truth, justice and the American way, but really I just want to employ the skills I love to maybe one day fight for the little guy who has no one else to fight for him, like an informed second grader who just wants to vote.

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