I’ve never been in the winning hearts and minds business.
As far as I’m concerned, opinion columnists have done their jobs if they manage to make the reader say: “Aha! I hadn’t thought about it like that.” That’s enough.
This here is my final column for The Sun: No. 34, the last in the series.
When I began writing for The Sun in my sophomore year, a goal was to inspire an “Aha!” moment for somebody. Who knows if I was successful? Either way, the journey has come to a close and I’m feeling a touch nostalgic.
My first few columns were easy — they chronicled the 2008 presidential election. The rise of Barack Obama and, as if to balance some yet undiscovered comic equation, Sarah Palin, were ripe for commentary. The starkness of their opposition made punditry fun and, frankly, not especially hard.
Truth be told, I owe Sarah Palin my sincerest thanks. She was my training wheels while I caught myself up on American politics and the mechanics and art of writing op-eds. Though I’ll no longer allow her a starring role in what I write, I suspect that she will always be my all-time favorite character.
President Barack Obama was another story. He made punditry hard. At one point, flustered but playfully so, I joked that he had killed political satire. Indeed, it wasn’t until he made an unhip quip about the Internet and weed that I was able to find something worthy of 800 words that felt remotely fair.
The next semesters kept me busy with the rise of Fox News’s “keep your government hands out of my medicare” Tea Party, accusations of Nazi-Communism in the White House, disbelief that a black guy from Hawaii qualifies as American, and the outpouring of an assortment of buffoon suitors for the Republican leadership.
As for Obama, a few weak spots emerged that I did my best to draw attention to: his gay rights record, his seeming ineptitude for bargaining with Republicans and his warmongering in Afghanistan. He has since delivered on gay rights, been a wash on bargaining and continued his warmongering.
Which brings us pretty much to the present. During my tenure as a Sun columnist — a tenure bracketed by the rise of Sarah Palin and the fall of Osama bin Laden — I witnessed and wrote about some extraordinary things: not the least of which being the ascendency of Barack Obama and the peculiar ways his own countrymen have cheered and leered at him.
The fact it’s a cliche doesn’t make it less true: We live in amazing times. I’m lucky enough that somebody thought it would be a good idea to let me write about it.
Sleep deprivation, post-thesis hangover and a primal desire to retreat into the wilderness notwithstanding, I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to share my thoughts with the Cornell community in print and online. I mean, what more could a kid from Canada writing about American politics ask for?
I believe that it is customary in one’s final column to reveal the meaning of one’s moniker. Mine, Stakes is High, is not especially obtuse; I’ve borrowed it from a De La Soul record that sounds like an overcast, unseasonably chilly evening, of which Ithaca provides many.
It is also customary to thank some people who deserve to be thanked. So I’d like to express my gratitude to all the people at The Sun, most of whom I’ve never met, who miraculously produce this newspaper five nights a week. Among them, I’m especially indebted to my editors — David Wittenberg ’09, Sammy Perlmutter ’10, Tony Manfred ’11, Dani Neuharth-Keusch ’12 and Jeff Stein ’13 — for bringing me on board and keeping me around. Mostly, I’d like to thank my family.
Well, that about does it, folks. To those of us graduating in a matter of weeks: We made it. To those who are returning next year for another round: You’ll make it.
For the underclassmen — I haven’t much in the way of sage advice, but here goes: Cornell University is the perfect opportunity to grow, if that’s what you’re looking for. And if that’s not what you’re looking for, this place has a lot else to offer, too.
But never mind that right now: It may be cool and damp, but these trees are budding to life all the same.
Aha! It’s spring.
Now, if I may, I’m going to go see what I can do about retreating into the wilderness.
Yo! What happened to peace?
Cody Gault is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com. Stakes Is High appears alternate Thursdays this semester.