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A fond farewell

Mark Easley | Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today is a celebration because today marks my final column in this great newspaper. For many campus liberals, this day has not come soon enough. Over the past four years, this column has been a bastion of conservative thought in these pages, and I appreciate all my fans and detractors that have silently agreed with and publicly dissented on my viewpoints. Through the ups and downs of the election cycle, the pressing issues of the day and even the occasional life commentaries, I have written many opinions that I hope you found engaging and provocative.

Conservatives across America are disturbed by what lies ahead for our nation. Many challenges have arisen, even in the short time I have been in school. I hope for my younger peers that Notre Dame remains a sanctuary where you can learn and progress without feeling too strongly the troubles of the real world. I would like to close my career like I began it – with a story about values that I hope will inspire and keep the fire in your heart burning one more day.

Great Grandpa Easley was alive at the turn of the century. He was just another American living in the heartland of Indiana. He suffered through the depression and raised a family that even sent one kid to college. Great Grandpa didn’t have much in terms of money or education, but he had a little plan and made reasonable life decisions. He would see to it that his family was educated and that his daughters were married to good husbands – the best way for females to gain financial stability at the time. Although he didn’t get to the top of anything, most people would count his life as a success. I certainly do.

Grandpa Jack Easley was another American success. Growing up under Great Grandpa’s roof, Jack didn’t have much either, but he had a good head on his shoulders and strong work ethic. He graduated high school, a place in which his father never stepped foot, and he became an electrical engineering student at Purdue. Grandpa Jack built tanks during the war and then moved on to air conditioning and automotive electronics. Jack got married and raised a family and like his father, made sure education was the top priority. All four of his kids became graduates of Purdue University, with two of them earning graduate degrees. Jack even started his own small business at one point, which he eventually sold. Jack wasn’t anything special, just another kid who made decent decisions along the way. He was never rich by any account but he was able to push himself and his family into a place where there were opportunities for the future.

Mark Easley Sr. didn’t grow up rich. Born in Indianapolis, he lived in a house that had four young mouths to feed and clothe. Mark was most like Jack in his school work and endeavors. He, too, followed his father into engineering. For 20 years, Senior pioneered the personal computer revolution in Silicon Valley, and was able to retire early. He didn’t inherit anything. He reaped the fruits of his labor through the opportunities that were presented to him.

When I was born in February of 1990, my family had come a long way. It took three generations and over 100 years to get me, the fourth generation of Easley to have the unlimited opportunity that everyone seems to be looking for, and I wasn’t even guaranteed success. For years I worked on my schooling, getting straight As year after year. While others got distracted, I always kept education as my top priority. I didn’t have to do it. I could have quit, but I had a plan for myself. I wanted to do something that no Easley had done before – attend a premier university like Notre Dame. I’m not smarter than anyone else, nor do I work harder than anyone else. The reason why I am where I am is because I just don’t quit on my plans. I don’t quit on myself by making poor decisions.

Through college, I worked and sacrificed. Engineering is no cake walk. Courses are challenging and homework comes in piles comparable to mountains. I experienced many times where I wanted to give up or toyed with serious regrets of coming to Notre Dame in the first place. But I learned to take my beatings and turn to God, and somehow in the end, I came out the other side with a prestigious degree, experiences, knowledge and relationships that will never leave me. I am charged up more than ever to go out into the world and begin solving problems. The challenges I lived through here have turned into opportunities to be pursued out there.

The American Dream is not about rags to riches in a lifetime. It’s about sustained progress over generations, where the next has more than the last, where the values of hard work and family and education are passed on. It’s a long road and all people have their struggles, but, by default, living in this exceptional nation is your best chance of making it in the long term.

It’s not all about intelligence or money. It’s about taking good risks for personal betterment and not endangering your success with bad life choices. America’s middle class is filled with family histories similar to mine. If you want to have an American Dream, look to what others have done to achieve it and learn from their example. Knowledge, education and determination are the cornerstones of success.

 

Mark Easley is a senior computer science major, and you can follow his blog at www.markeasley.org and can reach him at measley@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.