“Before March 2020, I lived life thinking that improvement required me to pour forth effort in hopes of a fundamental lifestyle transformation. But such instant, road-to-Damascus transformations are rare and usually the product of pure luck and harsh circumstance. Improvement requires incremental commitments, accomplishments, victories.”
We continue our Blog series about the 2020 Delegates and how they have been faring since Washington Week was canceled due to the global pandemic. Two outstanding student leaders are selected to serve as USSYP delegates from each state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Learning of the breadth and beauty of our country as they share home state stories and photos is one of the profound gifts of the program.
Lintaro Donovan, interning on Capitol Hill before the pandemic, for U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5th)
USSYP: What has been happening in your life since the announcement of the pandemic?
I officially committed to Dartmouth College, finished up my senior year at Montgomery Blair High School, received my high school diploma, read, ran, grew, built a productivity routine, and used my “free time” as wisely as I could. Social distancing came as a shock at first. Nevertheless, after four years at the largest school in Maryland – with around 3500 students – I appreciated much of the solitude. Quarantining in the suburbs of Potomac, Maryland was surely never on my bucket list, but I made the best of my early pandemic experience. After this last school year, I look forward to the next chapter of my life, in college.
Lintaro Donovan in Potomac, Maryland
USSYP: Did you have an opportunity to partake in Washington Week ONLINE, and if so, which speakers and events were most impactful for you?
Mr. Alfonso Cortes of the Department of State provided us with an expansive overview of United States-China relations. I usually start my mornings with a heaping serving of RealClearWorld foreign policy news, so to ask questions about foreign policy, to a man who helps craft our policy, was an exhilarating experience. I am sure I am not alone in saying this – Mr. Cortes grew my passion for geopolitics!
Alfonso Cortes, Macroeconomic Officer for the Foreign Service, usually based in the U.S. Embassy, Beijing, participates in the 2020 Washington Week Online © Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
USSYP: Technology has made it possible for you to know and be engaged with your fellow 2020 delegates. Have you formed friendships or special connections?
The 2020 USSYP cohort is a group to be reckoned with. From political map junkies to aspiring Secretaries of State, this class has it all. Our GroupMe discussions are always lively, be they about politics, current events, philosophy, or obscure foreign policy trivia (e.g. “Who would you like to see succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan?”).
I will be at Dartmouth College with several of my cohort, including George Eid of New Hampshire and Janine D’Souza of South Carolina. I cannot wait to get to know them better over the next four years!
USSYP: Has the pandemic had any positive effects in your life? Have you taken up a new hobby or read any books during this unusual excess of time that you can share or recommend? What do you feel you have learned from this experience so far?
The pandemic has given me time to read, to think, to train mentally and physically. Over the summer, I read 24 books and began training for a half-marathon. Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run is a life-changing read about how to love running (and for a noncompetitive runner, like myself, it is surprisingly accessible). If you enjoy history, I recommend Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor, a fascinating study of Germany through objects. For self-development, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Twelve Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson, and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl are all invaluable, as well.
Beating the siren song of laziness and procrastination has been quite the challenge for me. Thankfully, setting clear and firm monthly goals drags me out of bed and on my computer or into my shoes each morning, even on my worst days.
If I have learned any lesson from the pandemic, it is that change compounded continuously produces results. Before March 2020, I lived life thinking that improvement required me to pour forth effort in hopes of a fundamental lifestyle transformation. But such instant, road-to-Damascus transformations are rare and usually the product of pure luck and harsh circumstance. Improvement requires incremental commitments, accomplishments, victories. When I began quarantine, I wanted to run more, read more, do more. I did not start by running 400 miles in one week or reading War & Peace in one sitting. Instead, I told myself that I would run every morning and read something – be it even a page of an article – each day. And I have surpassed my goals.
USSYP: Have there been any instances where your natural inclinations toward leadership and service have shone through?
Two friends from my high school, Dhruv Pai and Matthew Casertano, identified one of the pandemic’s impacts early on: seniors needed help. Trapped inside their homes by a disease which targeted them, elderly and immunocompromised citizens were unable to access the grocery and medical supplies they needed in quarantine.
To combat this, Dhruv and Matthew founded Teens Helping Seniors (THS) – a local volunteer organization matching teens who could provide free, contactless supply deliveries with seniors. I joined the leadership team as Vice President of Outreach and was responsible for everything from deliveries to recruitment to governmental/nonprofit outreach and PR strategy. I have now given up my role in the organization, but THS has expanded far beyond its homebase in the Washington metropolitan area. The organization now fields 29 chapters internationally and has provided over 1800 contactless deliveries total.
USSYP: Have you had the opportunity to work with any outside groups, nonprofits or other organizations to effect positive change during this time?
Since I joined the Maryland YMCA Youth & Government program in my sophomore year, the Y has played a crucial role in developing me into a more confident leader and person. In March, when the pandemic began to decimate nonprofits just as their services were needed most, I got involved and began to give back to the organization which has given me so much.
I began with social media advocacy: using my leadership role in the Youth & Government program to support the #Relief4Charities movement and encourage others to do the same. However, the economic situation for nonprofits soon worsened. Little media attention was paid to this crucial economic sector. My advocacy then moved to writing op-eds. A piece I wrote, titled “In Crisis, We Must Protect Our Nonprofits,” was published in Seventh State, Maryland Matters, and The Washington Examiner. Written in an open-letter format, it even garnered a response from my Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD). Beyond anything else, I hope my efforts have compelled national elected officials to pay attention to the crucial issue of nonprofit relief.
USSYP: Please tell us about your plans for college this fall. Has the experience of the pandemic changed any of your original thoughts for your future?
I am a proud Dartmouth College freshman who began the academic year enjoying a two-week quarantine on campus, in preparation for a hybrid virtual/in-person fall quarter. From participating in ROTC to studying Roman history, I have greatly enjoyed my time here so far. New Hampshire has provided me incredible experiences with the outdoors, and the political opportunities here are unmatched. I loved talking to voters and campaigning for my favored candidates this election, and I cannot wait to further involve myself over these next four years.
Currently, I plan to pursue some modified or multiple major in Classics, Government, and Russian language, but – with the current situation – all of that might change. No matter what I study or how my college experience pans out, however, I know that I want to dedicate my life to public service – in the military, the federal government, elected office, business, or all of the above. Our country’s continued security and prosperity require level-headed, visionary decision-making, and I want to help make those decisions.
Lintaro Donovan, at the airport, headed to Dartmouth for his freshman year