1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
I slowly moved my finger upwards from the bottom of the list. But it did not take that long to go through eight names. My heart was pulsating when I stopped my finger. I did not believe it. I found mine after rubbing over seven names. It was a victory. "Let's welcome Alex onto the stage. Student Representative for 2009" I inaugurated as the leader of two and a half thousand boys on one September morning.
My decision to run for the Student Representative election was triggered by an initiative to do something meaningful for the school that I have dedicated myself for the last four years. However, deep inside my mind was a reason more significant than my pure love for the school. I wanted to see how far I can go and what I can do. With a friend of mine's nomination, I slipped the application form into a box that had eventually changed my fate.
I started writing a speech that I practiced every night emulating the styles of famous orators. Having studied speeches from MLK's famous "I have a dream" to Obama's inaugurations and his many other speeches made at the Democratic National Conventions, I was able to open my eyes to the qualities of those speeches: how those were efficiently structured to attract and convey the most across to the audience; how even a subtle gesture can elicit acclaim and support (at the right moment). For the next two weeks, sleep-school-eat-speech had defined my life. All my energy and effort were put into crafting and delivering 'the perfect speech' because it was the upcoming candidate speech day that would determine the hegemony of this election.
It was the moment. I stood in front of two and a half thousand intimidating crowd as the fifth of eight candidates. My heartbeat accelerated. I gathered my breath and projected my voice.
I came down from the podium and returned to the seat. My heart was beating, yet this time, out of joy and a glitter of hope. Harsh but honest criticisms, and not omnipotent but practical promises, my strategy of "appeal to hearts, not brains" worked successfully. What I said was exactly what students dared to say and wanted to hear. I did not cling to tedious explanations and 'great' reform plans because the four speakers before me had bored the audience enough. I remained different from the others.
"If you want something, you must ask for it." This cliché did not sound that plain to me that day. I was assured by the efficacy of this old adage. It gave me a hope and direction to the manner I should address challenges in my life. It gave me an inspiration and impetus that I can eventually attain what I desire if I set my attitude to meet those demands.
But, this achievement was only the onset of other challenges. My first meeting, I entered the room excited to bring about 'great 'changes. But this blind enthusiasm was immediately extinguished as I opened the first page of finance reports. "Meeting commences at 5:04, welcome everyone. Item one on agenda, NAG report please." Unfamiliar jargons and acronyms, complex charts and graphs tossed me to the middle of nowhere.
For the next two meetings, these fresh shocks completely shattered my juvenile philosophy. This was not about petty complaints against the uniform color or coke and mince-pie at the canteen. This was the real world of adults. For any decisions being made no matter how big or small, all the possible setbacks must be carefully and thoroughly considered and analyzed. It was responsibility; the responsibility that follows these decisions. That was what had separated the world of adults from my own adolescent realm. Having realized this, my initial disillusionment was gradually being replaced by more sophisticated and profound insights. As much as I was being engaged in intense debates across the table, were I getting used to being treated as an equal member of this adult community as the voice of the student body. By the time I proposed the Daily Routine Review meeting to restructure the school timetable, a dozen teachers turned up including a few deans and Heads of Faculties, two Deputy Headmasters and the Headmaster.
Having finished my office, I can now turn back and look at the path I chose to walk. It was a challenge but I will call this a journey because challenge sounds too negative. No challenges are negative since the process of overcoming them becomes an experience, an important lesson that I always will benefit from. There is one thing that I have definitely acquired over the past one year: something more than a monthly income of $55, something more than hours of professional leadership trainings, something even more than the honor and privilege to have had a meeting with the Government Ministers. Experience and mindset that I learnt from this position is priceless. Maturity and sensibleness that grew within me transformed the way I see this world. Through this election and my tenure of Student Representative, I can now see the barrier that had prevented me from entering the adult world. I now have stronger courage and inspiration to tackle any bigger hurdles ahead in my life. I was the fortunate one out of the 2,500 to have benefited from this process. As I recall this experience, I think of where I stand right now, reminding me where I was when I first stepped a foot on the New Zealand soil at the age of ten, not knowing what letter comes after the alphabet ABC.