This essay was originally written as a response to the prompt “Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?” for college applications. It’s my favorite piece of writing that I’ve ever completed.
I am a lucky one of them: some of these outspoken and loud folk only get to join a chorus of same minded voices. The lucky ones get to challenge the status quo. The lucky ones are different, unique, a little bit weird.
Weird is an extremely appropriate (and, I’m sure, oft-employed) word to describe this middle-class, straight, white, Christian-school kid who grew up in a very conservative town going to an even more conservative school — and ended up a crazy liberal.
My story begins when my community began to become a little worried in seventh grade when I decided I would wholeheartedly support and defend President Obama. Perhaps the best way to describe the mood in response to my dissenting voice was something a teacher told me as I spoke about my love for Ellen DeGeneres: “Matt, I want you to know that I pray for you and your twisted views.”
Freshman year I debated about women’s rights in world history. Sophomore year began the primary elections for the 2012 season, and I was challenged by my stubbornly conservative AP Government teacher to dive into the details of my views, and with the help of some friends we defended the economic theories of Maynard-Keynes.
But the real story comes in my junior year. The issue I was dedicated to in 2012 was promoting and passing Referendum 74, which would finally allow anyone the right to marry who they loved, regardless of gender. At school, I discussed the values of passing this measure as it related to the values of our founding fathers. This was especially potent in a school that strongly believed in a traditional definition of marriage.
When the referendum passed, I bought a shirt. It was green and gold and read—”Love Wins.” I believe this message wholeheartedly. I believe that no matter what, love will win out over any evil. I believe that is the message that can change culture for the better. I believe it is the one Jesus Christ would have spread if he was here, in 2013, at Northwest Christian High School.
I wore the shirt for several months, eagerly challenging the belief that legalism wins, or traditionalism wins, or the status quo wins. Then, in spring, the administration noticed. I was called into the principals office and asked that in order to “protect the brand” I would no longer wear my shirt. I spent about an hour discussing with my principal and the headmaster of our school whether or not it was okay for our school to take this stance. I told them that I wouldn’t wear the shirt but that I also wouldn’t remain silent — I was going to defend what I believed in.
I haven’t been scared off. I still challenge the ideas inside the classroom that I don’t think are correct, but now, something is different. I am being watched by my school — on more than one occasion, I have presented an idea in the classroom, then heard about it the next day from different teachers or members of the administration in casual conversation.
This environment of these juxtaposing opinions has only served to encourage me. To understand how others think. To develop the best way to present an argument or have a productive discussion. I leave high school and enter life at the collegiate level ready to embrace new ideas and unafraid to remain one of those people.