Why Swarthmore?


Why Swarthmore?                                                                                Paul Fischer
              I am looking for a school with intellectually curious peers and available,  knowledgeable faculty who hold similar values. Swarthmore’s traditions of  academic rigor and political engagement make it ideal for me.
              My experience volunteering for Obama’s Campaign for Change in North Carolina not only taught me the importance of well prepared pitches, but also of listening. I have noted that at Swarthmore, the administration has shown that it is willing to listen. The fact that many important choices bubble up through groundswells of support speak to that fact. The decision to end all contracts with the mega-corporation, Coca-Cola, is an example of how Swarthmore values and listens to the political voice of its students. As a member of the student body, I see myself contributing to that voice.
              In the Vermont State Legislature, where I was honored to be chosen to serve as the page from Burlington, I saw firsthand how powerful interests attempt to exercise power and disenfranchise the average constituent. This cowardly approach to solving the problems that face our state ultimately caused great harm to the legislative process by limiting conflicting viewpoints. As a result of this system, small farms in Vermont lost out to big agriculture. Most of Vermont’s crop is today contaminated with GMO’s as a result of the bills passed while I sat in the house.  Unfortunately, small farmers can now be unfairly held liable for  inadvertent cross contamination. In addition, of course, we become more limited in our choice of eating non-GMO local Vermont food products.
              Using the skills of continuing to listen and remaining open to many voices and ideas, I hope one day, to help effect real change in Washington (or perhaps Brussels). With that goal in mind, right now, I can teach others the power of politics and help them take advantage of their rights. In the ninth grade, I drew up a comprehensive, highly interactive lesson plan and delivered a series of talks, explaining the United Nations and demonstrating consensus building, to our local elementary school, Champlain Elementary.  Students learned not only to discuss and compromise with each other about a “hot” topic (school lunches), but also to draw up their thoughts in an intelligent letter. Although initially reluctant to allow me to do the project (it didn’t fit into preparation for the coming standardized tests), ultimately my high school and the Champlain administration were supportive of this work and I and another high school student I recruited to help me were written up in the newsletter.
              This year I have given speeches to English classes in four different grades at the German gymnasium I attend in Baden-Baden, Germany (home to my father). In these presentations, I explained the American political and educational system. As I fielded questions in German and English, it was important to listen, respond, and defend my views while being respectful of the others’ viewpoint. I enjoyed having the opportunity to provide an American perspective to German nationals.
              I believe, that by listening to many opposing viewpoints, and considering each equally, long-term success can be found in a way that doesn’t disenfranchise the small person. At Swarthmore, the rigorous course load and intellectually challenging environment will prepare me well for my chosen profession, public service. In non-academic ways as well, I feel sure my peers and professors at Swarthmore will challenge me to self-actualize. For me, it is important not to forget one’s civic duty in the quest for success and I hope, through public service, to work to uphold values that both Americans and Global Citizens hold dear; armed with a Swarthmore education, I can surely further these personal goals and hopefully serve the best interests of our country.
And that is my goal in applying to Swarthmore.

Books and Music application Essay

Books and music
I am a voracious reader and my tastes are very broad as I am constantly exposed to new authors/artists and genres. That said, there are many peices that will always inspire my creativity and provide me with entertainment.
I had always heard of Jefferson Airplane as a sort of mysterious inaccessible vehicle of change from a lost era. When I saw their performance from the 1969 Woodstock movie, I found them to be both accessible and contemporary. Their folk inspired rock guides intelligent lyrics on subjects as diverse as the Coming of Christ in their album “Crown of Creation” or the role of propaganda in the political process as described affecting “Miranda” in their song of the same name. These lyrics were written before Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons or Rupert Murdoch bought the lions share of America’s consciousness. The critical message that their songs deliver is one that is also timeless.
Grace Slick, the lead singer for Jefferson Airplane was also a great reader and I find many of my favorite books among her inspirations. Alice in Wonderland is one of these stories. As a tenth and eleventh grader, I adapted the entire story into a sixty-page screenplay. The resonating themes for me were the notions of insanity in common sense and sanity in nonsense. The image of the walrus as a titan of industry preparing to feast on small clams representing the trusting masses is one that was needed in 19th century England, where Carroll perhaps had to look no further than the poorhouses to find concrete evidence of his whimsical scenario.
Where Lewis Carroll wrote fantastic stories filled with stylized personalities and extraordinary situations, Charles Dickens offers a very sober portrait of the same world. David Copperfield finds a spot with me because it covers a number of circumstances showing both the wretched conditions of the disenfranchised, as the abandoned David is, and the apathetic rich. It also offers a glimpse of the helpful lower and middle class in David’s nurse and aunt as well as the blissfully ignorant Mr. Dick.
Despite my understanding of inherent friction between classes and my belief that the friction can be lessened through change and continued social mobility, my uncle and a series of libertarian professors and acquaintances helped me internalize certain aspects of the 19th century British movement, liberalism. I admire the work of JS Mill, specifically On Liberty, in which the role of government is discussed. During a recent Religion and Philosophy course with Richard Sugarman, I became aware that his work was essentially carried on in modern Phenomenology, as pioneered by John Wild.
Another writer people are surprised to find among my reading is Adam Smith. The Wealth Of Nations represents a philosophy our society has brazenly interpreted and followed for centuries. Unlike many of my friends, who believe the book has corrupted America, essentially creating a series of slave states throughout the third world, I see Wealth of Nations as a useful economic tool that has been misinterpreted. I could write forever about this, but allow me to just say that perhaps Adam Smith advocated increasingly vigilant monitering of the effects of our actions, not the devil-may-care attitude, hope the “invisible hand” solves all problems that people seem to read from the work.
While this is by no means comprehensive or complete, I hope it does fairly accurately portray the way I look at literature or art.

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