I am about to graduate from college in a week. Inevitably, I will hear many inspirational speeches, future plans from students, and probably some Buzzfeed article called “20 Thing About the Real World Graduates Should Brace For” accompanied by funny GIFs. Since everyone is on a different path with their life, and I have very little advice to give about the real world. Not to mention, this is a political blog, I want to just share a story and reflect on it broadly. The New York Times did a profile on Jonathan Krohn. Who is Jonathan Krohn?
In his early teens, Mr. Krohn wrote a book titled “Define Conservatism” and made a speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference that caught fire. He was courted by Fox News, mentored by William Bennett and anointed “the future of conservatism.” A frequent cable-news guest and Tea Party speaker appearing in sweater vests or suits and ties, he was called Alex P. Keaton, Lil’ Limbaugh,the Little Mr. Conservative (in a headline with a 2009 article in these pages), Urkel, a Muppet and Doogie Howser, G.O.P.
But Mr. Krohn, it turned out, was a work in progress, and by this spring his transformation seemed nearly total: from a buttoned-up kid to a shaggy young adult with facial scruff and untucked shirts; from a golfer to a lover of art films; from a home-schooled Christian living in Duluth, Ga., to a secular New York University freshman in the East Village. Most jarring of all, he renounced his earlier political beliefs.
The turnabout made him something of a pariah among conservatives (Mr. Bennett now declines to discuss him) and ruptured his family.
Or the kid giving this speech:
Krohn became a child prodigy for conservatives and the Republican Party. He was smart, articulate, charismatic, and, obviously, young. He was the Doogie Howser of conservative politics. There are three general lessons one can draw from this.
First, a more general lesson, a meteoric rise in anything, whether it be politics, sports, or music, can lead a very quick fall from grace if anything disrupts the fan-base. Often in politics, ordinary citizens are thrown into the limelight and onto the national stage before they are ready. You become an instant rock star to a specific ideological group. Anyone who has seen a VHI “Behind the Music” special knows that once a band becomes famous, a lot of bad things happen (mainly drugs and death). In Krohn’s case, he grew up and, unlike the rest of society, had to change his political views in the public eye. For a kid who built his entire career catering to one specific political base, there was little room for change. Unlike a rock star who can change the genre of music he plays and retain some adoring fans, the political world does not adapt in the same way. Conservative adults do not suddenly become liberal adults. Since most people don’t become political stars at the age of 13, there will be very few of these stories in the future.
Second, Krohn might have fared better if there was another way for him to express his political views to an audience his age instead of writing a book for the public. As a kid who also had an interest in politics at young age, it is very difficult to find that outlet. There aren’t any clubs you can join at school or many friends you can talk to about politics. Most of my friends loved sports and video games. They were willing to talk about Barry Bond’s home run record, but no one ever wanted to talk about the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court Decision with me. Certainly some clubs exist, like Model U.N. or Junior Statesmen of America, but there are not that widespread. Most gifted programs also cater to students who are good at math and science, not history or social studies. Finding ways to engage students who love the humanities should be an important part of public education too!
The final lesson that Krohn teaches is that moving from childhood to adulthood is a rough transition period:
To avoid graduating three years from now with a huge debt, he has just made yet another big change: only a few weeks before the end of his second semester, he became the latest high-profile brainy college dropout. He accepted a full-time job with Rudaw, the Kurdish news site based in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and on Thursday flew off to Iraq, his latest home.
The younger Mr. Krohn is excited. “I’ve been building up to this for a while,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Middle East. I’ve been studying Arabic since I was 9.” He has learned some Kurdish, too. “I want to try and make Middle Eastern politics more human for Americans to understand,” he said. “I really enjoy that. I get paid to do it, and I get to write it, and it gets to be in indelible ink everywhere.”
Unfortunately, Krohn had to mature in the public eye and redefine himself with everyone watching. Most people don’t have that problem. Everyone does, however, have to redefine themselves after high school or college. Transitioning from having an identity as a “student” into a “professional” is not easy. Even with a lot of academic support services on most college campuses, no one really trains you for that leap. To avoid it (or to enhance themselves), many choose graduate-level education. Even so, that doesn’t make the eventual transition any less inevitable or smoother. The truth is, every person must find the route that makes them happy in life. The lesson Krohn teaches is that you should never be afraid plunge headfirst into that transition. You might fail, but failure is the only way that you learn new life lessons. Since you can’t hide from the transition, you might as well embrace it.
I’m sure that I will read this post later in life and find some of it ridiculous. I have never been in the real world or rose to stardom. But hey,a blog is an evolution of thought. If I’ve changed, then I’ve matured. I’ll conclude by saying good luck to all the graduates out there. Go be the best Jonathan Krohns you can be!