JASON

JEONG | The Paradox of College Romance

One warm spring afternoon in 2015, I sat in the bleachers of The Harker School in San Jose, California with my best friend, who was then negotiating the terms of his impending long-distance relationship with his girlfriend. Magnified by the omnipresent backdrop of John Legend’s “All of Me” and the hormones of nostalgic teenagers, I spoke to him with the same oratory fervor I had recently seen from Tom Cruise during the final scene of Jerry Maguire. I promised, “You guys can totally make this work out. Atlanta to Chicago isn’t a long flight — you can see each other all the time.” Under the influence of soon-to-be-legalized medicinal inebriants and the clear ether of youth itself, I delivered my speech oblivious to the imminent scandals of college and with all the unironic conviction of an 18-year-old who thought The Killers were the greatest band of all time. The relationship crumbled in a matter of weeks — as these things usually do — once it turned out the flight from Atlanta to Chicago wasn’t as short or simple as it looked on Google Maps.

Rev. Steve Felker, of Ithaca, holds out an "I Voted" sticker at the polling place at Alice Cook House last year.

JEONG | The Symbolic Redemption of Voting

Growing up, my local library in tiny Leonia, N.J. carried this collection of biographies called “Childhood of Famous Americans.” Every weekend, I would go to the library with my mom and brother, and carefully select my famous American of choice, be it Walt Disney or Franklin Roosevelt. As an immigrant kid, reading these books gave me a sense of normalcy — knowing that if I worked hard and was kind, that I, too, could be like JFK or Joe DiMaggio. At the time, I was too young to understand the complications that came with being a minority and blissfully oblivious of the fact that I would turn out to be of underwhelming build and unathletic ability. The only thing of substance that grounded me was this idea that, in America, I would have as fair a shot as any other kid at success. America is an idea. We are taught that this idea was what won us the Revolutionary War and all the other wars for that matter.

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JEONG | The Limits of Loyalty

A few weeks ago, it was reported in the San Jose Mercury News that my high school music director was arrested for soliciting sexually explicit pictures from a student. This teacher meant the world to me in high school. Just as accomplished athletes celebrate their early coaches as formative mentors, I looked up to him as father figure of sorts, as did dozens of other students throughout his 14 years as an educator. As one friend put it, his classes were “some real ‘Dead Poets Society’ shit.” And as trite as it is to attach that reference to high school teachers that cared about their students, he was the type of teacher that made the laborious high school visit over winter break worth it because that kind of debt lasts a lifetime. Initial reactions ranged from disbelief to denial, but after scouring through every Bay Area publication and Twitter post online, it was pretty hard to doubt or defend against any accusation.

Jason '19 and Eric '22 Jeong on the ferry to Ellis Island in 2002.

JEONG | My Brother’s Cornell

Dear Eric,

Days after Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States in 2008, he penned an open letter to his daughters for Parade. In the letter, he wrote about his vision for his daughters’ America and how our generation would become the drivers for change in years to come. As a sixth grader who followed Obama as religiously as the apostles followed Christ, I read this letter with all the idealism and hope of a kid with his life ahead of him, unfamiliar with failure and unabashed in my expectations for the future. I thought about this letter when you, my one and only kid brother, found out that you will be coming to Cornell next year. Although nearly all my actions and general demeanor might suggest otherwise, I do spend quite some time thinking about how you will live your life.

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JEONG | Bursting the Asian Bubble Myth

Over the weekend, Cornell hosted the East Coast Asian American Student Union conference — the largest Asian American conference in the East Coast. Overall, it was a notable weekend: Asian Tinder was absolutely on fire, Duffield radiated with the smell of food from the homeland and Buzzfeed’s sweetheart Steven Lim graced campus with his wholesome presence. It was inspiring and uplifting to see so many Asian American students from all over the country discuss ever-relevant issues in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. During my freshman year, Eddie Huang of VICE Munchies and Fresh Off the Boat fame came to Cornell to talk about food, media and everything Asian American. Unabashed in his opinions on racial politics and embraced by viewers of all colors, he represented what I believed to be the best of what a new generation of Asian Americans has to offer.

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JEONG | Winter Olympics… In Ithaca?

Dear Mayor Myrick,

I hope your February break has been going well. It’s been a few weeks since I saw you driving through the Commons. I waved at you, but you pretended not to notice. I’m going to act like that never happened, because I have bigger issues that I want to address today. Since the last time we’ve met, I’ve been watching a lot of this Winter Olympics — dozens of sports that I never knew existed two weeks ago have now consumed my entire life.

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JEONG | The College Protest Tradition in a Postmodernist America

To cater to the massive Asian-American population in the Bay Area, my local movie theater occasionally screens blockbusters that are currently popular in East Asia. As dutiful Korean immigrants, my family fulfils our patriotic obligation by going every time they show a new Korean movie. Over the break, my family went to watch 1987: When the Day Comes, a Korean film about the military dictatorship that interrogated and tortured pro-democracy protesters during the 1980s. It showed scenes of college activists of my parents’ generation being beaten and hauled away by policemen who resembled vigilante gangsters more than federal law enforcement. As the final credits rolled, the audience, comprised mostly of stoic, first-generation Korean parents, sat in their seats silently weeping, bound by a collective reminiscence of mutual struggle only their age cohort could fully appreciate.

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JEONG | The Juul Manifesto

A spectre is haunting Cornell — the spectre of the Juul. It has seized every Collegetown frat party, every hidden corner of the Olin stacks, and every North Campus dorm. With each additional “Do u have pods?” text sent on this campus, the grasp of the Juul tightens around the lungs of Cornellians everyday. However, an existential threat of the Juul looms over New York State. Two months ago, Governor Cuomo signed a bill banning the use of e-cigarettes in public indoor spaces — officially putting him on every teenager’s shit list, right next to the mayor from Footloose and the principal from The Breakfast Club.

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JEONG | Why We Must Protect the Hateful

I came to college a Bernie-loving, John Oliver-watching, 420-friendly, devout liberal. My political awakening began in sixth grade when I read then-Senator Barack Obama’s autobiographies. To a minority kid interested in politics, his words were gospel to me. I was vehemently pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and if anybody were to disagree with me, they were ignorant, minority-hating bigots. In an era in which politics has been defined by Trumpism, liberals have rallied under a common villain — a catch-all caricature that represents the evil of the right.