Remember the Titans (of Yesterday): Lessons Learned in DC — Noah Ward (’19)

Who doesn’t love sports movies? These films find ways to bring together the highs and lows of any sports seasons with the drama and life lessons of even the greatest Shakespearean plays. Alright that last one may be a bit of a stretch, but I would challenge you to find anyone who does not love my all-time favorite sports movie, “Remember the Titans.” In particular, one of my favorite scenes from it is early on in the movie, after a series of long hard practices when the team goes from fighting against itself due to racial prejudice to working together as a team. The events accumulate in a moment of euphoria as two of the main characters who had been fighting, Julius and Gerry, work together and make a major tackle. Gerry starts off by yelling in a moment of celebration, “Left Side!” while pushing Julius in the chest. Julius responds likewise with a push and the statement, “Strong Side!” And so the two go back and forth for a few loud testosterones filled moments. It is clear at that point that everything will be okay and the joys of team work will conquer the dangers of prejudice.

I am sure at this point that all my readers are wondering what this glorious moment in cinema history has to do with a BICer in DC. Well… be patient I am getting there. As I have been in DC I have thought about the lessons which I would share with my fellow BICers through this post, and in person when I return to campus. Now I believe I have found it. Since Mid-September I have been serving as a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank as well as the presidential memorial to the only president with a PhD. Through this living memorial the Wilson Center strives to provide non-partisan, effective research for the general public and policy recommendations for the government. The idea of the institution comes from a quote by the president himself, in which he states:

“The man who has the time, the discrimination, and the sagacity to collect and comprehend the principal facts and the man who must act upon them must draw near to one another and feel they are engaged in a common enterprise.”

When I read these words carved into the first floor of the Wilson Center building my movie-quote oriented mind couldn’t help but float back to “Remember the Titans.” I imagined Scholars and politicians yelling at one another screaming, “Left Side! Strong Side!” my mini-fantasies aside, I can’t help but agree with President Wilson. A titan in his own right, Wilson established some of the founding principles of Liberalism, one of the most important of which was cooperation. We as people, no matter what career we find ourselves draw towards, must find ways to work together and use each other’s skills to help society as a whole. As someone who has found myself split between striving for a career in academia or government, I could not help but take the lesson to heart.

Living in DC I have noticed divisions; I have gone to many panel discussions and speaking events where different sides point their fingers at each other: Republicans at democrats, scholars at politicians. Yet, despite all of this, thanks to my participation in the think tank world I have also been given the chance to see these two sides of research and action come together to create meaningful change. two sides of the field come together to create a beautiful game; two races come together to heal a community; two cogs of policy come together to produce legislation. People are always at their strongest in any endeavor when they work together. This is a lesson I feel like the BIC especially stresses. In our tight knit community of future doctors, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, and yes… teachers, we have begun to embrace the idea of bringing different skills and areas of knowledge together, to produce something truly beautiful.

In such divisive times when both the concept of academia and the government (particularly bureaucracy) are being viewed as failing, or even harming democracy, I think it is important for all of us to look back on the lessons taught by “Remember the Titans,” Woodrow Wilson, and of course the BIC. To work together is to strive for a better world. No matter what career path we may choose going forward, so long as we remember this mantra, we will not only pursue a life worth living, but will live up to the challenge laid down by football players and presidents alike.

Noah Ward (’19) is a junior political science major from Springfield, Missouri. You can also read Noah’s reflections from before he left for D.C. — “BIC Killed My Dreams of Being a Spy.”

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