This One Goes Out to the Ones I Love

The past few years have been good to me. Sure, some bad things happened, but they pale in comparison to all the good that has befallen me. As of December 10, I will be a college graduate. Yes, you read that right – I am actually going to graduate! And while I will probably be back next semester to pursue a minor (I’m a real glutton for pain, you see), this is one of those milestones in life we so often talk about. It seems like only yesterday I was graduating from Harriman High, but that was long ago. I have come far since then.

But I didn’t get here on my own. I wish to dedicate this column to all those who have helped me along the way. You know who you are. I would especially like to recognize the following people, who all helped in their own ways…

First and foremost, thanks to my parents, without whom I would not have been able to attend college. Thanks for teaching me the difference between right and wrong, humility, and for always pushing me to do my best (something I didn’t always do). I can never thank you enough.

To Bethany Stover, thanks for always saying what was on my mind, but I was too timid to say. More importantly, thanks for being a great friend to me, even when I didn’t deserve it. And for not laughing at me during karaoke.

To Nathan Fortner and the legendary Jason Piho for the all nighters and the 3 AM Waffle House runs. There’s no one I’d rather clog my arteries with!

To Samantha Henry, the first friend I made in college, and who is now overseas defending our great nation. We all owe you more than you could ever imagine.

To Paul Boyd – Give me a job when you get elected to Congress!

To Genti Tahiraj, whose story is a source of inspiration to me, and who gave me hope when all seemed bleak. You are going to be the best MD ever!

To Ryan Kirk, one of the few who can truly appreciate my offbeat sense of humor, and whose courage is undisputable. When you become the first woman president (and you will), all Americans will truly be winners.

To Lori Lary, who has taught me more about the “loyal opposition” than anyone, and whose biting wit and keen sense of humor makes me smile. Watching movies at 4 AM when you have an 8 AM class may make for long days, but it was worth every second.

To Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, for all the deep political discussions and funny jokes. You will be famous someday. I guarantee it.

To Christy Cagle, without whom I would still be trying to pass Spanish. ¡Espanol es muy dificil!

To former editor Christy Banks for first hiring me to write columns for the Daily Beacon, and to Brooks Brown and current editor Jason Johnson for feeling I was worth keeping around.

To Bryan Hilbert, who puts me in my place when I’m out of line (which is a fulltime job).

To all the UT College Republicans, whom I have come to know and love. You will change the world for the better.

To Dr. Fitzgerald, whom I consider a mentor, for never refusing to help when I dropped by his office unannounced with an emergency, and who always gave encouragement. UT is a far better institution thanks to you.

To (soon to be) Dr. Jennings, Dr. Piehler, Dr. Miller, Dr. Thomas, and Professor Pope. Academia is well served by professors such as yourselves. Your influence will never die.

Finally, I wish to thank everyone who reads my columns. If not for you, I could never have even written. Hearing from you makes writing worthwhile.

To those who want advice, I can only offer this: Stick to what you believe is right, no matter what. Never lose sight of your moral compass. Never back down when someone tells you that you are wrong. Always be open to new evidence, but remember that right and wrong do not change. If you follow this, you will have the satisfaction of a clear conscious, something too many people cannot enjoy.

In “Friday Night Lights” (the movie), Billy Bob Thorton’s character tells his team, “Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down. I want you to put each other in your hearts forever, because forever is about to happen. Can you live in that moment as best as you can, with clear eyes, with love and joy in your heart? If you can do that, then you’re perfect.” I wouldn’t say “perfect,” but “pretty darn good” would be an apt description.

If you want to keep up with me, drop me an e-mail or check my blog (http://johnnbrown.blogspot.com). Otherwise, I will (hopefully) see you in the spring!

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