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Princeton Essay- Princeton in the Nation's Service/Human Rights


awkwardness 1 / 3  
Oct 11, 2010   #1
This is my Princeton supplement essay. Any advice is much appreciated; don't be afraid to be harsh. Also my essay is 122 words too long, so please help me make it more concise. Thank you!

Using the statement below as a jumping off point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world:

''Princeton in the Nation's Service'' was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University's 250th anniversary to ''Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations.''


"Do you know a lot about human rights?"
When my dad had asked me that this morning on the way to my interview for the New Jersey Scholar's Program, I'd replied with a confident "Yes." I was familiar with Locke and Rousseau. I'd read recent news articles regarding human rights. I'd even debated the issue many times in Model UN.

But now, on the way back home, as my dad posed the same question, I shook my head silently. No.
"In the US, freedom is like air, so Americans take their rights for granted."
I thought back to my interview. It was conducted as a discussion on human rights among seven NJSP semifinalists, each of us vying for a spot to participate in NJSP's summer seminar. We waxed eloquent on natural rights and social contracts, on Darfur and the Holocaust, and on UN peacekeeping missions and the war in Iraq. We compiled a list of human rights and of actions to take in the case those rights were violated. We formed arguments, rebutted others, and tried to build a consensus.

But it wasn't until after my interview, until after I'd stepped back into the outside world that I felt something was wrong. The discussion felt too much like the ones I had participated in during school, in which we contemplated the characters in Hamlet or the themes in Plato's Repubilc. Except this time, we weren't talking about fiction or philosophy; we were talking about real human crises. And we had discussed them without passion, without sympathy, without true understanding of the plight many people were suffering across the globe.

"Your grandparents, your mom, and me - we know about human rights, because in China, we did not have many. I didn't go to college here, I'm not very smart, but I know about human rights."

On the drive home, as I listened to my dad describe in detail, for the first time, the atrocities my family had endured during the Chinese Revolution under Mao Zedong, I began to cry. My grandfather was imprisoned for no reason other than that he was born in Hong Kong and "carried foreign ideas," my parents were barred from entering college, and my mother was sent to a labor camp at sixteen... and here I was, arrogant enough to believe that my books and history classes had taught me everything I needed to know about human rights. I cried, feeling the hidden pain embedded in my family history, feeling shameful for my unsympathetic conduct during the discussion, and realizing how ignorant the other NJSP semifinalists and I were. We were supposed to be the "best and the brightest," selected for the interview through a rigorous application process, but beneath our eloquent words and flawless transcripts, we knew nothing about human rights. "Both sides have to be educated. Developing nations need to know that human rights should exist; developed nations need to know that there are places where rights don't exist."

A thirty minute car ride with my dad taught me that despite my academic achievements, there is much I have yet to understand. I hope that four years of college will fill in not only those intellectual gaps but also the humanitarian ones. I want my college years to be not an endeavor to earn a degree or fill my head with smart-sounding information, but rather, a way to prepare myself with tools that can be used to create progress in the world, whether it is by denouncing human rights violations through Reporters Without Borders or by being a contemporary "muckraker." By the end of four years, I want to graduate and join the ranks of Princetonians "in the nation's service and in the service of all nations."
radkate 4 / 8  
Oct 11, 2010   #2
I really like the idea behind this, I think it really fits the prompt well. The only thing that kind of throws me off is that you say this is the first time you have heard about your father's experiences. I'm assuming you're older at the time (maybe say how old in the essay?), but it just seems strange that you wouldn't already know about this and that he would choose to share this with you in a car. Perhaps if you elaborate about why exactly you didn't know it would help your story retain its credibility. Really awesome idea though, I think it's well-written.
OP awkwardness 1 / 3  
Oct 12, 2010   #3
Thanks for your comments! Yeah, my dad briefly mentioned the events in his life before, but never did he go into such detail as he did during the car ride back from my interview. I'll add that into my essay.

Does anyone have any other suggestions please?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Oct 14, 2010   #4
Let's simplify:
When my dad had asked me that this morning on the way to my interview for the New Jersey Scholar's Program...

But now on the way back home, as my dad posed the same question, I shook my head silently. "No."--- See, I also added " "marks around "No"

And we had discussed them without passion, without sympathy, without true understanding of the plight many people were suffering across the globe.--- You are a great writer!

Hyphen
thirty-minute


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