A Pebble on the Beach

Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of California.

To finish off the junior year, our English instructor told us to compose one last piece concerning our personal beliefs, and I worried about the consequences of reading my controversial paper on homosexuality in front of the class. To do so would risk my reputation and, because it was the end of the year, my final grade as well. I have always held passionate beliefs on the subject but have never been outspoken. However, this time I felt duty-bound to tell the class that at least one person disagreed with popular opinion. If I lost respect from my classmates in stating my views, I gained respect for myself.My sword clashing did not start with the current class project. My ideas on homosexuality began during my sophomore year when our class held a symposium on the subject of tolerance. I formed a team with my good friends Elizabeth and David, and we could choose any topic to present, as long as it related to tolerance. I remember insisting that our team cover the subject of homosexuality. Thus, after hours of work researching our subject, we were thrilled to debate our beliefs against the lively opposition, even though we limited some of our arguments according to directions from the school administration. Writing my “I Believe” essay for English class my junior year tied me to the computer screen until I finished. I composed my essay to parody the views of my opposition, imitating arguments similar to theirs in a lengthy diatribe on why heterosexuality is a sin. I won accolades from the two close friends who served as my proofreaders and Elizabeth, my former comrade-in-arms. It was encouraging to receive their approval, but at the back of my mind, I knew I would have to read my paper in front of class without the support of their presence.I wondered if publicly stating my opinion on homosexuality was worth receiving the disapproval I anticipated. Although I felt nervous during class, I applauded other students who read their statement of beliefs, mostly on emotionally neutral ideas such as the value of friendship. At last, the instructor called my name, and with some hesitation I stood up to read my essay. I remember fixing my eyes on my paper to avoid seeing disapproval on the faces in my audience. After my performance, nobody clearly frowned at me, but I do not recall any smiles, either.The teacher asked me to rewrite my paper if I wanted credit, omitting its sarcastic humor. She clearly did not care for my attempt at parody, and I had also lost any chance at friendship with most of the students in class by presenting an idea of such stark contrast to their own views. I am sorry to have alienated another, but when I see amazement in the eyes of my friends when they read what I spoke to a hostile audience and when I see the symposium poster I drew nearly two years ago still hanging in a classroom, I realize that the whole world can change even if only one person stands up for his or her beliefs. Since the day I read my thoughts to the class, I have become bolder with my ideas, and now I cross swords with others regularly, always tempering my remarks with humor. Comedian Mary Hirsch said that humor is like a rubber sword, allowing us to make points without drawing blood. Therefore, I wield my rubber sword liberally in fighting for my causes, and to the world, I say, “En garde!”

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