By Nash Wills, Co-Editor
Controversy, criticism, stirring the pot—necessary evils that are never fun to cause, provide, or do. Like most, I would prefer to not dole out negative feedback, especially towards colleagues and classmates. Somewhat ironically though, who else can you constructively criticize other than those you know and work with? Isn’t criticism directed towards people or things you aren’t acquainted with kind of fickle? Nevertheless, and despite my affinity towards the path of least resistance, I occasionally feel it is my responsibility to speak up; to say what needs to be said about the things that are important to me. A few weeks ago when I decided to write an article that was critical of February 25th’s Europe, Canada, & Australia Regional night, I did just that. It wasn’t fun, but I thought, and still think, that it was necessary.
The feedback I received from the article was, as I knew it would be, divisive. I wrote it with the support of many of my classmates and friends, and even received a couple of messages from staff and students I haven’t yet met who seconded my thoughts. I tried to be objective and provided a number of potential solutions for what I saw as apparent issues. My empirical intentions fell short, though. Some people, particularly those who had participated in and planned the event, were, understandably so, hurt, confused, and downright pissed off. I had a number of them approach me to tell me how they felt, but I defended myself. As I had written, I never “meant to denigrate Regional Night nor criticize anyone who took part in it.” My critique came from a place of experience rather than ignorance, and I hoped “to initiate a dialogue about changes concerning the current state of affairs surrounding Regional Night, as well as promote increased interest amongst the Thunderbird community.”
And in hindsight, I’d like to believe that the article served its purpose, because last Saturday’s MENA & Indian Subcontinent Regional Night was absolutely awesome. I had my initial doubts. If you take spring break into account, those who planned and participated in the event only had around 3 weeks to make it all come to fruition, and boy did they ever. I was truly amazed by the turnaround. The food was excellent, the turnout was big, the energy was high, student participation was taken to the next level, the performances were creative, truly cultural, and well-rehearsed. Throughout the week leading up to the event, it was always a pleasant reminder of the weekend to come when I would walk by the Commons, the Herberger building, and the Snell Rooms to the sounds of people practicing their skits. There was a great rehearsal beforehand, which transitioned into everything flowing smoothly throughout the night, and, as a first-hand witness to the action, I can tell you with complete certainty that everyone in the audience had a blast.
To TSG and all of those who helped to make Saturday into that uniquely Thunderbird tradition that we all know and love, I want to both congratulate you on a job well done, as well as thank you for making that Regional Night one for the history books. I believe that your performance under pressure was a reflection of your character, and that speaks highly of your capacities to triumph in the face of criticism. You should all be proud of that. You successfully exceeded all expectations and it’s precisely that ability—rising above adversity—that makes T-birds T-birds. As someone who is only a month away from bidding my adieu to Glendale, it meant the world to both my class and myself that you all stepped up to the plate and made that night one that we will never forget. While eating breakfast at the Pub on Sunday morning, Franz, Tomás, and I all laughed, smiled, and fondly recounted the evening in hoarse voices. It was a much-needed simple pleasure. What more can you ask for?
I could write another 1000 words on all of the performances—the dances, the fashion show, Global Sounds…We’ve got a lot of talented people at this school. However, this article was never meant to be a coverage piece on the event, but rather a token of my appreciation for those who reinvigorated a historical point of Thunderbird pride. It’s hard to believe that in a little over a month my time here will come to an end. If there’s anything I’ve learned while moving and traveling around the world, like all T-birds do, it’s that when you leave a place behind, you never do quite know when you’ll return. Sometimes it seems like I’ve dedicated an infinite amount of time, energy, and emotions into this school during my two-year tenure, and I’d like to believe that I’ve made just as much of a mark on it as it has on me, but I know that’s probably not true. That’s because Thunderbird and the ideals that have allowed it to stand the test of time thus far are bigger than any single or group of individuals.
For myself, leaving campus will mean a lot of different things. The best word the English language can offer to describe it is “bittersweet,” but I don’t think that sufficiently articulates the range of emotions. Last Saturday’s Regional Night helped to assuage my growing nostalgia, though. Although moving on from Thunderbird will be hard, scary, exciting, happy, and sad, knowing that it’s being left in the hands of some incredible people who will continue to pass down our traditions to the next generation makes it a little bit easier. Never take for granted the things that differentiate our revered institution from the rest, and always know that it’s not the place, but the people who have made and will always make Thunderbird special. As students who only pass through here briefly along our lives’ journeys, it’s our job to do the best we can during the time we’ve got to maintain and build upon our traditions, like Regional Night.
Photos courtesy of Yashwant Neti & Cortney Easton