In the words of Eminem, “I’m cleaning out my closet.”

While I hate to admit my affinity for Eminem songs, I will confess that while cleaning out my childhood closet today I played the aforementioned lyric on repeat. I suspect it is because I find some sort of gratification when there is musical and material harmony in my life.

But the point of this entry is not to pontificate on the significance of a white rapper to an Orthodox Jewish girl who may not have rhythm, but most certainly has soul. Instead, it is discuss one significant discovery amidst my tidying frenzy: my fourth grade journal.

By age nine I had determined my entire life’s trajectory: Attend Brown for undergrad, major in Political Science, graduate with Honors and then immediately thereafter begin my studies at Harvard Law School. Upon receiving my JD, I would initiate a rich legal career in constitutional law and subsequently in politics. By age forty, I would enjoy the benefits of a New York senatorial seat.

In the words of the Gentile Giant, I was a woman who would “make a to do list.” And in the introduction to my fourth grade journal I devote a page to discussing the importance of determining an educational and professional agenda at a young age: A girl needs something to work towards, especially a girl as independent and academically-driven as me.

But perhaps the more telling entry was the one that appeared on the following page: Problems with U.S. Embassies in Africa. In said entry, I detail Bin Laden’s 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. I think what happened in Kenya and Tanzania is horrible and I think Osama Bin Laden is a  mean person because he is in an Arab terrorist group and is in charge of it.

While most girls were writing about the challenge of naming their Furbies or the latest acquisition of their American Girls dolls, I was delving into African politics, and in surprising depth. I went on to write an entry devoted to the Africans, innocent civilians, caught in the cross-fire between the United States and Al-Qaeda.

No one seems to care about these Africans. The news only seems to talk about the dead Americans. Why are Africans so ignored, so voiceless?

I consider this entry my first foray into African diplomacy. Over the last year I expended almost every waking hour to researching the politics of HIV/AIDS in Uganda and South Africa. Few of my friends and even fewer of my family members could comprehend why a girl like me could possibly be interested in an issue so geographically distant from my everyday reality.

But a quick glance through my nine year old journal and the answer became quite clear– because despite the fact that I am Yankees fan, I prefer to root for the underdog. And in the media blitz of 1998, the Africans were most certainly the underdog, the people who few reporters even bothered to interview.

Fast forward twelve years and I finally had the opportunity to turn my sympathies into a neatly organized and tightly worded senior thesis, for which I am, I’ll admit it, quite proud. My pride stems less from the final product and more for the effort I invested into speaking with the people on the ground– the people who live and breathe the AIDS epidemic in their respective African states.

I may not have found a cure for AIDS or even changed the course of health policymaking in either of my case studies, but I took the time to listen to people usually denied a free and open platform in Western politics. I listened, and despite my fourth grade listening comprehension skills score (a whopping 44), discovered that I am pretty respectable listener.


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