If Lula is a star of this book, so too is Barack Obama. American elections are of enormous interest to all political campaign junkies, a category in which both Seguela and I would almost certainly qualify. Much is made of Obama’s use of the internet, a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms and one the young Senator used brilliantly in his quest to become President. Yet though it was an accurate expression of his modernity, underpinning its use were some very old-fashioned campaign principles. He used it to turn supporters into activists who both gave funds and also took his campaign materials and ideas and ran their own campaigns for him. Somehow he managed to make one of the most professional, most disciplined and best funded campaigns in history look like an enormous act of democratic participation.
I believe that we are all capable of random acts of kindness from an early age, and that we subconsciously extend these random acts as compassion to all living things. I did not necessarily recognize this as compassion when I was a child, but I saw consistent examples of small, random acts of kindness from my mother. By the age of 12 years old, I was consciously aware that these small examples were really powerful acts of compassion, and I took those lessons to heart.
I heard a lot about Marine Le Pen and certainly the polls tell a good story for the leader of the Front National. She has certainly shown she can mount a campaign and get the media to accept a sense of change. When even her enemies refer to as Marine, rather than the more toxic Le Pen, that is something of a success. But whenever I have heard her, I have not heard a powerful argument for the future of France.
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I was in Paris recently as a guest of the left think tank, Terra Nova, and met politicians, advisors, militants, experts, journalists and bloggers. I came away with some strong impressions. Firstly, virtually everyone told me that President Sarkozy was hugely unpopular, and his ratings as low as it was possible to go. Yet many of the same people told me he could still win. They know he relishes a campaign. They suspect he may have learned from some mistakes. Incumbency is a powerful weapon. A comeback is a powerful narrative. And they worried that with the President so unpopular, the economy sluggish, social issues raw, and the left in power in many parts of France, the PS should have been doing far better in the polls (to which, incidentally, French politicians and media pay far too much attention.)
The aim of these writing prompts is to encourage freewriting. This is writing without stopping and without censoring. Writing in this way can help to break through blocks like self-criticism and fear of failure, to find your own, unique voice.
Choose a prompt and decide how long to write - ten minutes is a good length of time to begin with. Try to do one freewriting exercise a day.
My first campaign as spokesman and strategist for Tony Blair was in 1997, three years in the planning after he had become leader of the Opposition Labour Party. Some of the principles of strategy we applied back then would certainly apply to a modern day election. But their tactical execution almost certainly would not. Politicians and their strategists have to adapt to change as well as lead it. Seguela gives some interesting insights into those who have adapted well, and those who have done less well. He clearly adores former President Lula of Brazil and you can feel his yearning for a French leader who can somehow combine hard-headed strategy with human empathy in the same way as a man who left office with satisfaction ratings of 87percent. Seguela probably remains best known in political circles for his role advising Francois Mitterrand. Yet wheras I am ‘tribal Labour’, and could not imagine supporting a Conservative Party candidate in the UK, Seguela came out as a major supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy. I wonder if one of the reasons was not a frustration that large parts of the left in France remain eternally suspicious of modern communications techniques and styles which, frankly, no modern leader in a modern democracy can ignore. How he or she adapts to, or uses, them is up to them. But you cannot stand aside and imagine the world has not changed.
My experience has been that random acts of kindness are effortless, and often times create chain-reactions in a positive way. One small act can lead to another small act that may result in another random act, and so on and so forth. Each act is part of the circle that forms true compassion to other living beings. I can delight in being the doer of a random act of kindness as much as I can delight in being the recipient. A kindness can go a long, long way.
In 1958, when I was five years old, we were at the local drugstore to pick up a few items for my grandmother. In line in front of us was a family with several small children much like my own family, although these children appeared dirty, unkempt and dressed in stained, misfit clothing, their shoes not looking much better. In this group was an older girl holding a white handkerchief in one hand that had a small bulge in the center, signifying coins tied in the knot for safekeeping. Each smaller child held a balloon in their hand, and it appeared the older girl was going to buy them. I really wanted one too, but I knew better than to ask for things when we were already in the store and in front of others.
I have always remembered that lesson of compassion, and although it took me a few more years to understand that this was not an act of unfairness to me and my siblings as children, I eventually came to realize it was an act of pure, random kindness to someone else’s child.
How to Answer: The Admissions team is taking a unique approach with this essay question, and I think a lot of prospective students are scratching their heads about how to respond. So, to help inspire your essays, I thought I would pass along my list of 25 Random Things: