Friday, June 22, 2012

Some of My Thoughts on FDR, Vassar and the Ivy League Connection

After waking up at 7 AM, we took the subway down to Penn Station and boarded the Amtrak Adirondack toward Poughkeepsie about an hour later. Even at 8 in the morning, you could already feel the heat, and the weather had told us that today was going to be even hotter than yesterday. By the time we returned to New York, we learned from a local that the temperature had broke 102 degrees, although thankfully, while we were gone.
Poughkeepsie, though, was no better. I personally love the heat and this kind of weather, but it'd be a little easier to walk around college campuses in a little more comfortable weather. The train ride up to Poughkeepsie was beautiful; the Hudson River Valley is teeming with natural beauty and the scenery on the ride up was very enjoyable.
Poughkeepsie Amtrak
 Upon our arrival in Poughkeepsie, we hopped into a taxi that had been waiting for us at the station (every one of our days is strategically planned out so that we get the most of our time) and headed to the home of our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I personally am a big fan of the majority of what FDR did for our country; his Social Security, G.I. Bill and New Deal programs played an enormous role in rebuilding our nation from the Great Depression, and his proposal of a second Bill of Rights I feel would have been an enormous step toward decreasing much of the suffering of the lower class. Unfortunately, though, FDR passed away before this bill made any progress, although I still applaud him for his intentions. I am not a fan of everything Mr. Roosevelt did, though, I feel he could have acted much sooner during WWII. Of course, war is always a bad thing and should be avoided whenever possible, but I believe that, as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, "He who accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who perpetuates it." I also vehemently oppose the imprisonment of the Japanese, as it violated numerous parts of the Constitution, and quite simply, was totally immoral. So my thoughts on Roosevelt are mixed, but I can say without doubt that his heart, his intentions, and his desires for the lives of the American people were in the right place. He should be, in my opinion, one of the most well-respected and honored presidents; his determination in a time when both he and the nation had everything working against them pulled the nation back together from an greatest eras of the suffering of the American people.
Anyway, we visited FDR's home, which was a very impressive and beautiful place. Our tour guide was extremely informative, and after the tour, I had an interesting talk with him about President Roosevelt's decision to hide his disability rather than stand tall with what God had given him and try to disprove some society's misled associations of physical disabilities with weakness and mental disabilities. The guide told me that at the time, while it may have been a stand for open-mindedness, the image of disabilities at the time was too string to overcome, and FDR likely would not have been reelected had the public known how much trouble he actually had with polio.
The driveway

FDR's home in Hyde Park

The resting place of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt
After visiting the home FDR, we continued on to Vassar College. At Vassar, we received an extremely informative information session; I was especially fond of the nonexistence of a core curriculum and the nonexistence of Greek life, which I feel can sometimes make campus life a little more exclusive. The campus architecture I found to be amazing, although the campus itself as only nice, with nothing particularly special. I also am not a fan of its location, although in a beautiful area of the Hudson River Valley, I may feel a little isolated living on campus for months on end with so few people (2400). I have yet to decide how I feel about Vassar, it had its pros and cons, and I'd say I'm still sort of on the fence. You can see some of Vassar's beautiful architecture below, as well as the gorgeous Hudson River Valley.

After returning to New York and getting dressed for another fancy dinner, we arrived at Le Bernardin at about 8 PM. The restaurant experience was fantastic; the food was once again phenomenal and I ate it all up before thinking of taking any pictures. It was my first time ever trying (or even hearing of) Geoduck, which apparently is some combination of clams and some sauces and vegetables which I was unable to recognize. I also tried lobster for the first time (also loved that) and as my main course, I had the Black Bass in some tasty black sauce which I also could not identify. The dinner itself was extremely delicious, possibly the best I've had on this trip.
Funny side story: This entire trip, I haven't had a sip of anything but water (and milk for breakfast). I've seen sodas and sugary juices and felt the temptations, but I had been able to resist simply because I felt it'd be good to stay hydrated and better for my health to stay away from sugary drinks. I don't know why I decided to do this now, as I've always been conscious about what I eat, but never smart enough to resist the temptations of unhealthy food. Anyway, I had gone about 4 days on only water, and when the waiter tonight asked me if I wanted a drink, I told him just water. He ended up bringing me a Sprite, and I only noticed after taking a few big sips. I joked with Mrs. Kronenberg and Mrs. L that they had set a trap for me to finally end my streak. With a soda finally in front of me, the temptation was too much and I finished the Sprite, and when the waiter asked me for another, I told I was fine. Further proving my trap theory, he brought me another Sprite. When we switched tables, I purposely left the Sprite at the old table, but he kindly made a third attempt to give me a drink I had never even ordered by bringing it to me from the old table. I don't know if I made this funny over text, but it was pretty funny when it happened.
Lastly, we had a big discussion over dinner about how we can improve the process of achieving the Ivy League Connection's main goal: to have each of us students give back to the district everything we learned. We struggled over students' lack of interest in college, or their misled assumptions that they cannot afford it (I'm forgetting the specifics, but Holy Names University in Oakland is currently offering students in our district a FREE education if they have low family income and a GPA of 3.0 or above.). We argued and shared ideas about how to best solve these problems, and I won't go into too much depth about what we found due to the current time and their complexity, but I will write about our solutions more as we apply them and carry them out.

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