Thanks, Coach.

I’m looking at my newest basketball. A Nike ball with “Volunteers” emblazoned across the rubber. Volunteers. 

Growing up, I played basketball. I played for ten years. I wasn’t always the best player on the court, but I loved the game. The pace. The adrenaline. I didn’t just love playing; I loved watching. I loved watching the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

I wanted to be a Lady Vol. I would go to my grandparents’ house and shoot hoops pretending I was on Pat Summitt’s squad. I pretended I played for the best basketball coach in the nation. Perhaps in history. Yes, in history. 

Pat Summitt. She coached with this graceful fire. She pushed her team to be great on and off the court with her icy glare and competitive heart. And her teams were great. Worthy of 8 National Championship titles. One even worthy of a gold medal. And when she could no longer coach teams, she kept her fire and fought like a champion to beat her most formidable opponent.

 I stood on her court where she coached for nearly 40 years, a court in her name. I had the privilege of speaking to Coach Summitt at a game last fall. It was an honor to even be in her presence. After the initial stammering, I managed to say, “Coach, I have been a fan for many years. I’m glad to see you here.” I could tell she was hearing me, but she wasn’t the coach I once idolized. It was hard seeing her in a sickly state: human. 

We want our legends to be that: legends. Seeing her was a reminder that we are merely human and life is largely out of our control. But her resilience and faith were reminders that we have life worth living. And to win at life, we must live. We must make every shot, every day count to win.

Coach Pat Head Summitt dedicated her life to competition, to winning. Now, she has won the ultimate game. We remember her as a champion. And she lives now as a legend, as an inspiration. An inspiration to never give up. To support your team, whoever it may be. To have faith. To win.

Thank you, Coach Summitt.

10 Things to Keep in Mind this Election Season

The 2016 presidential election is all over the news. It is the news. Many people have opinions about…the news. Here are 10 things to keep in mind in the months to come.

1. Not everyone agrees with their party’s candidate 100%.

I don’t even agree with myself on 75% of the things I say and/or do. It’s almost impossible to agree with someone 100%. Some people may whole-heartedly agree with their party’s candidate (or believe they do), but there are many more who may take issue with at least one comment or policy. Do not judge someone’s beliefs based on the candidate or party they support; they may not have the same convictions.

2. Many voters DO evaluate both sides.

I’m not thrilled with either party’s front runner. However, I do pay attention to both candidates. I want to choose someone who has a majority of policies I support, whose charisma inspires or impresses me, and who will ultimately be the best Commander in Chief. Quite a few people are like me, believe it or not. Most voters have to evaluate both sides at some point. Please refrain from saying, “but you don’t even know what he/she thinks,” unless you are positive someone has not evaluated both sides. The League of Women Voters lends good advice for evaluating candidates.

3. The media does not always present everything.

As a journalism major, I can say with confidence good journalists try to present both sides fairly and equally. But we cannot always present everything that was said or done, and there are bad journalists out there. Take in as much media as you can even when you think you cannot look at another political ad without your eyes burning out. Watch Fox News and CNN and MSNBC and CBS/NBC/ABC News and your local news channels. Read your local paper. Follow everyone in the political arena on Twitter. Check out everything to build a well-rounded view. Know some things may never be published, but most are out there…somewhere.

4. Young voters are not stupid voters/veteran voters are not stubborn voters.

Sure, 18-year-olds are new to the political process, but they aren’t necessarily dumb. I’m 19, but I can almost guarantee I watch more election coverage than the average 45-year-old. Young voters are not ignorant. Arnie Seipel of NPR makes a good point; young voters actively use social media. We see election coverage EVERYWHERE. Pull up Twitter and we see #ImWithHer and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. Snapchat? There’s a whole story for each primary election.  We are young, but this country is our future; we want a good future for ourselves, our future families, etc. We are paying attention and attempting to be informed. Veteran voters, similarly, are not stubborn. They do not always vote for their party’s candidate. They do what they feel is right and vote for the candidate right for them. They are watching the news, reading the paper, and some are checking Twitter. Older voters are deciding who is right for them. If that means being a ride or die Republican, then go GOP until you RIP. If not, that’s cool. You do you.

5. No candidate is more “correct” than any other.

There are two parties for a reason. Everyone has differing beliefs. We have a system that allows for multiple ideas to be represented. Just because you do not agree does not mean it is wrong, nor does it make the idea correct on the flip side. Policies line up with convictions. The policy may be in line with your convictions or it may not. The policy is not “wrong” or “correct,” it simply exists. You only decide if you like it or not.

6. Do not lose friends over the election.

I cannot stress this enough. Everyone becomes a political expert during election season, and some of the most profound experts will be friends. You sometimes will not agree with them. We love to fight the people we love. Instead of having a fight, listen to one another. Listen to each other’s ideas, and consider each point. You may not agree, but at least you get an idea of how the opposite side operates. I have a good friend who supports the candidate opposite my own, and we often have meaningful conversations/make jokes about our candidates and beliefs without judgment or anger. I am working on a second major in French, and my friends from France are astounded by the way many Americans shut each other down. In France, debate is always welcome. The French debate and converse, and they DON’T BECOME OFFENDED by every little jab. Take a lesson from the French; be open, honest, and appreciate someone whose ideas differ from your own. Without others, our democracy would not exist.

7. The executive branch is not the only branch of government. 

Take a pill, America. Did we learn nothing in school? The American government has three, yes, three branches. These branches work in a system of checks and balances. The executive, judicial, and legislative branches work together. Don’t get all worked up about Trump wanting to build a wall. Congress will definitely have something to say about it. EXTRA FUN FACT: YOU HAVE A VOICE! Our legislators, executive officials, and judiciaries are here for US. If you have a problem, contact your local representatives or your congressmen. Know their office addresses, emails, and phone numbers. More importantly, know who they are!!!  Note: If you do not get a response, try again. You can also contact local media and ask them to delve deeper into a subject if it is of great concern to the community. Here is a page to help you find your elected officials.

8. You cannot do anything about the results after Election Day.

What’s done is done. You may not be happy, but millions of others will be right there with you. Turn your attention to other elections coming up, and be involved. Watch local elections, state legislature elections, etc.  Work from the ground up to build a government with which you can somewhat agree at the very least.

9. VOTE.

You cannot have an impact on results after the election is over, but you can have a say day of the election! PLEASE, FOR THE SAKE OF EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD, JUST DO IT! GO VOTE! Don’t flip a coin if you can’t decide, but you have a chance to tell the electoral college who you want to see in office, so vote for a candidate you can support.

10. “We the people…”

The Preamble of the United States Constitution explicitly states “we the people” form our union. The presidential nominees are not the sole participants in this race. We are one country striving for liberty and justice for all. Every citizen has an equal right to participate in the governmental process.

 

***You may have different opinions on the above points, but at least you are thinking about these issues now. Please feel free to comment; I’m always open to debate. God, bless America.