Let me address this “snowflake” thing. According to the “Urban Dictionary” a
“snowflake” is a “term for
someone that thinks they are unique and special,
but really are not. It gained popularity after the movie
“Fight Club” from the
quote “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake.
You’re the
same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
I hear the term occasionally from buddies of mine who I love, they say things
like, “How are things up there with the liberal snowflakes?”
Let me assure you, I have not met one kid who fits that description. None of
the kids I’ve met seem to think that they are “special”
any more than any
other 18–22-year-old. These kids work their assess off. I have asked a couple
of them
to help me with my writing. One young woman volunteered to help
me by proof-reading my “prose” and,
for the record, I believe she will be the
President someday. I recently listened while one of my closer pals, a kid from
Portland, Oregon, talked to me about the beauty of this insane mathematics
problem set he is
working on. There is a young man in our group who grew up
in Alaska working on fishing boats from a
young age and who plays the cello.
There is an exceptional young woman from Chicago who wrote a piece for the
Yale Daily News expressing the importance of public demonstrations in the
light of a recent police shooting. She and I are polar opposites. I am the
“patriarchy” at first glance, and she is a young black
woman who is keen on
public protests. Not the type of soul I generally find myself in a conversation
with. We come from different worlds and yet we both read classic works with
open hearts and minds.
recently met with a prominent writer from a think tank who is researching
the state of the humanities in
the university setting. There were four of us
students, two other young men, the young woman from
Chicago, and me, the
old guy. As the younger students started to express their thoughts, the young
woman (truly a unicorn of a human) used the word “safe space” and it hit me
forcefully. I come from a
place where when I hear that term, I roll my eyes
into the back of my vacant skull and laugh from the
bottom of my potbelly.
This time, I was literally in shock. It hit me that what I thought a “safe space”
meant, was not accurate.
This young woman, the one who used the phrase, “Safe Space” isn’t scared of
anything. She is a life-force of goodness and strength. She doesn’t need
anyone to provide a comfortable environment for her. What she meant by
“safe space” was that she was happy to be in an environment
where difficult
subjects can be discussed openly, without the risk of disrespect or harsh
judgement. This works both ways. What I mean is, this young woman was
comfortable, in this University setting, wrestling with things like the
Aristotelian idea of some humans being born as “natural slaves.” She was
quite comfortable in that space. The question was, how comfortable was the
52-year-old white guy in that discussion? Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes.
I’m grateful for the discomfort. Thinking about things I don’t
understand or
have, for most of my life, written off, is a good thing.
Being uncomfortable is KEY in this
world of ours. Not altogether different
from the world of special operations, where the work needs to be
regardless of weather or personal feelings. The climate in this educational
institution is one where
most students understand that there HAS to be a
place where people can assault ideas openly and
discuss them vigorously and
respectfully in order to improve the state of humanity. I’ll call that a “safe
space” and I’m glad those places exist.
Here in the “Directed Studies” program, instead of “tuning in” to our favorite
self-confirming “news” source, we are given a timeless text with heavy ideas
and then we throw
them out on the floor and discuss them with people who
have, as I mentioned earlier, made these works
and their meaning, their
In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that
situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a
group of people who will
very likely respectfully disagree with them. I
challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to
actually sit down
with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your
mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to
your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for
agreement from those who
“follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for ones
words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me
there is no dishonor in being
wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful
ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.
On Veteran’s Day, there was a great scene on campus. A bunch of American
flags had been placed there and I stopped on my morning walk to class and
took photos of my dog in front of them and sent them to my friends.
Later at
some point during the day, a young student placed a glove with red paint on it
on one of the flags as she wanted to demonstrate her displeasure with
something… I’m not quite sure what.
That same
afternoon, some of my fellow students from “Directed Studies,”
after a lecture, gave me
It is a card
thanking me for
my service to our nation. I
was humbled and amazed.
These hardworking kids
are very
kind and
thoughtful. A far cry from
the picture that is often
painted of them.
One of my Professors, a
Professor of Philosophy,
told me once “a good leader is a bridge builder.” Professor David Charles is a
man who has been teaching bright young people and some slow and old ones
like me, the most difficult
subject for me, at Oxford and now Yale. He’s been
doing this for over 30 years. He is extremely humble
and very kind, in addition
to being brilliant. I’m motivated by his words and I want to build bridges and
lead, in some small way, a new conversation where we stop pointing out the
perceived differences in each other, or this group vs that group, and start
pointing out similarities. We don’t need more condescending
friction in
humanity. We need less. One step in the direction of less societal friction is to
commonalities. Another step, and one that is sorely needed, is respect.
Now before you think I’m
preaching, please know that I come from a place
where I was distinctly the opposite of this ideal. I looked
for reasons to
disregard the opinions of those I didn’t respect. I discounted the ideas of
people I felt like
hadn’t earned the right to share what was in their mind.
Particularly when it came to national security
issues, I felt that if you hadn’t
taken a gun into combat, I didn’t give a damn what your opinion was.
I’d like
to count this as my first brick in attempting to build a bridge between
the people here at Yale and those
like me before I arrived here. We need
everyone who gives a damn about this American experiment to
and make it succeed. We humans have much more in common than we have
different. Thanks
Yale, for helping me to become an aspiring bridge-builder at
the age of 52,
In our welcome speech at the
beginning of this semester, with all of us
Freshman sitting in Woolsey Hall, me sitting next to another
veteran, one
who’d served in the 82nd Airborne, President Salovey said;
“There is so much we do not
know. Let us embrace, together, our humility
— our willingness to admit what we have yet to discover.
After all, if you
knew all the answers, you would not need Yale. And if humanity knew all
the answers, the world would not need Yale.”
Now back to that bridge. I need to figure out how to actually build one. Good
thing I’ve found a place where I can get help. If this place is peopled by
“snowflakes” I’m proudly one of
them. I’m a snowflake with a Purple Heart.
1. Explain (in your own words) in what ways Hatch is the polar opposite of the “exceptional young woman from
Chicago” he mentions.
2. And how are they similar?
3. He writes “Being uncomfortable is KEY in this world of ours.” What kind of discomfort is he talking about,
4. What are the important components of the “new conversation” he talks about?
5. Review Part 2 carefully and find any words or expressions that are unfamiliar to you. Write them here, with
definitions. Don’t use copy-paste for this; write it out

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