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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Brandeisian reflections: a graduating senior and a rising junior

One of the, perhaps silliest but, most storied traditions here at The Hoot is the Editorial Board’s practice of tracing our lineages. Not our actual lineages with 23andme or Ancestry.com but rather who our “Hoot Parents” and “Hoot Grandparents” are. In writing this article Thomas Pickering ’23, current editor-in-chief, and Cooper Gottfried ’25, current opinions editor and soon to be editor-in-chief, reflect on their time at Brandeis and with each other as Hoot Grandfather and Grandson. Of course, we would be remiss to not shout out Mia Plante ’23, the current managing editor, for being the self proclaimed “hot mom” that bridges our generations together in the Opinion’s section. The best Hoot Daughter and Mother that any section could hope for!

Thomas: My story begins in high school; a place which seems so far removed from my lived experiences yet, is still so recent in the grand scheme of my life. I idolized the students in the class above me in high school. I thought the world of them and even went to great lengths to try and model parts of myself after them. Their poise, composure and academic abilities were all things I admired and I spent a great deal of my high school career attempting to follow in their footsteps.

However, when that class graduated I was left with a nearly empty feeling in my stomach. As I walked around my high school campus, I found it difficult to be my own person. I had only ever modeled myself to be like the individuals who once roamed the halls I now felt I was left alone in. Every day I was almost expecting those individuals to come around a corner and surprise me. As if they had never left and still were the active role models they were to me just a few months prior. But they weren’t and it took me a long time to realize just what it meant to now be a leader and role model to others.

It is hard to be a role model to others when you are not sure of who you are.

I spent senior year doubting myself and wondering if I was half the role model to the younger kids that my role models were to me. But then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, I too had graduated high school and began my career here at Brandeis. Naturally, being sent home due to the pandemic certainly made my experience unique as a spry first year. But, it gave me time to become a better man—not exactly who I want to be, but someone closer to that figure in my mind.

I began growing into the person I was meant to be and, as a junior with new leadership roles, that is when I met Cooper. One of the funniest and most understanding individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. We became friends very quickly, and perhaps he would disagree on one or even maybe both accounts of that statement, but that is how I felt. I had made a new friend and it felt effortless. Our banter filled the rooms we were both present in and his work reminded me of my own in many ways—although his was certainly more thought out and nuanced in its humor.

College is funny in that way isn’t it? In high school you only hang out with and date people who are in your grade. It is odd and almost frowned upon to do anything else by your peers. Yet, in college those distinctions fly out the window with all other pre-conceived notions of what is and is not acceptable socially from high school. Cooper quickly became someone I not only could joke around with and enjoy spending time with but someone I could rely on.

And from my vantage point now, that is something that has meant the most to me as I conclude my time here at Brandeis. I came to Brandeis doubing myself. I pondered on whether I was ever going to be a good leader and if I would measure up to those who came before me. But, once I got here, I realized that that is not what leadership is and what being a role model is. Being a good leader means being confident in yourself and pushing yourself to grow not because you have role models you want to be like but because you always want to improve for the people around you.

Cooper, you have pushed me to improve myself in many ways. Be it as a better writer, a better editor, a better leader, a more critical thinker, a more compassionate friend or even a goofier individual (though I still do not know the difference between goofy and silly). You have been one of my biggest reasons for continuing to grow as an individual.

Because as I look back on my four years at Brandeis, sure the classes were amazing, yes the opportunities were plentiful and absolutely the staff was just as dedicated as advertised. But what I can confidently say is my biggest accomplishment was finding who I am and who I want to be. Not who I want to model myself after but who I want to become through my own hard work and dedication. It can be hard to see this when you are only halfway through your college career. All that seems to be on your mind is finding housing on campus, getting good grades in all your classes and finding impressive internships to litter a resume with. But the meat of the experience is in who you meet and how you decide to let them impact you.

High school me would be anxious as all hell knowing I have no role model in my life; that I am aimlessly walking this Earth, enjoying life as it comes and taking the blows with grace. But he is so naive and will continue to be for a while. It is not the size of the ripples we make that give us our pride, but what others grow and turn those ripples into that does. Being at the end of my Brandeis career I am sad to be leaving the community I cherish so much, but so proud to know that Cooper, and hopefully others who have been positively influenced by me, will grow what I have done into something more beautiful than I could ever have planned or imagined.

Cooper: Well, that went by a little bit faster than anticipated, didn’t it. Already halfway done with college, saying goodbye to my dear grandfather Thomas, and moving on to the back half of my undergraduate experience.

What have I learned throughout these two years? Well, what’s stuck with me most has (expectedly) not been what I’ve learned in any classroom. What’s made the biggest impact on me as a human has been the people. That’s not to say that my professors haven’t taught me anything, I certainly didn’t know what a Java ArrayList was a year ago, but what my friends have taught me has been infinitely more valuable.

I started writing for The Hoot on a whim, I got an errant email from sports editor and America’s Sweetheart Justin Leung ’23 asking for articles for the week, and I wrote a 1600 word article on the first week of the NFL season. That one decision, to write a silly article about a silly sport in my downtime during the beginning of my first semester, led me to a community that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I never imagined myself being a regular writer for a newspaper, let alone being the editor-in-chief of one, but people like Thomas have made The Hoot (and all of Brandeis) a joy for me. When I came to my first production night, I immediately gravitated towards the OPs section which was led by Thomas at that point. Through a stroke of outrageous fortune, Thomas and I became friends quickly and effortlessly, and he eventually asked me to become the deputy editor for his section in the Spring. He also asked me to join the rugby team, an offer which I have considered and declined several times. I accepted his offer to work as an editor on The Hoot, though, and learned the ropes of being a section editor under Mia’s amazing guidance while Thomas was studying abroad.

When he came back, though, Thomas became the exact kind of friend I needed at Brandeis. Someone to lift with, complain about articles with and absolutely destroy in Mario Party. Thomas has helped me come into my own both as a person and an editor. He has been kind, encouraged me to spread my wings both outside of and within The Hoot and helped me grow as a person more than he knows. It’s an honor to call him my friend and role model.

Now, as I step into Thomas’ old role of editor-in-chief and a Hoot without one of my best friends, I feel ready. Thomas, and everyone else at The Hoot, has given me the ability to work hard (too hard, some would argue), laugh and to lead. As for hard work, Victoria Morrongiello ’23 has certainly exemplified that. That woman has written 300 articles and counting. I promise I’ll catch up someday, whether you like it or not. For laughs, I once again have Thomas to thank. My days are significantly brighter when they include you and our ongoing fake(?) relationship. For leadership, all of the seniors have shown me what to do, whether they meant to or not. Watching Victoria run around the BMC manically completing every task at once and watching every senior command respect with their words and actions has shown me how I want to lead.

To Grandpa Thomas and to all the seniors, thank you. This place won’t be the same without you, but you’ll still be in the BMC every week in everything I do as a leader.

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