This American Life

January 20 2017

They’re an easy target for mockery, but the Boy Scouts definitely gave me an education I couldn’t get anywhere else. Beyond knot-tying and wilderness survival, the Scouts offer young men a chance to learn to be self-reliant, to lead and to follow, to be a more complete person. My high-school diploma is in a box in my parent’s attic; My Eagle Scout badge is on my bedroom dresser.

One of the most important things I discovered when I was a scout is that you must find your own purpose in life; scouts and school will give you the tools, but you need to supply the drive. In that vein, I have found that the only guiding principle for finding that purpose that I find satisfying comes in two steps. First, do everything you can to maximize your ability to do good. Second, use your ability to do as much good as you can.

I entirely admit that I espouse this principle mostly to assuage my own guilt. I’ve had an extraordinarily lucky life; for starters, I’m a white, straight, middle-class American man, so I came out of the womb as a member of one of the most privileged groups in history. My parents are stable, sane and caring, and have been a constant source of encouragement and support. I was born with congenital cataracts, but now I can see perfectly with contact lenses. I went to a wonderful high school, a decent university, and got a well-paying job before I graduated (I’m a software engineer).

So the only way I’m able to sleep is if I do something worthwhile with all that I’ve been given. So many people in this country alone have had a much harder life than I could imagine. It is a fundamentally immoral act to focus on my own profit, when I’ve already been given so much.

For my whole life, that “worthwhile thing” has always been in public service. Maybe it's the Eagle Scout in me, maybe it's the Massachusetts Democrat, but there is something incredibly meaningful in using the combined power of millions to help millions more, to leverage the power of the people to righteous ends. Call me naive, but I think there is something powerful in the ideals of America, the dream of liberty, equality, peace and prosperity for all mankind. That is not to excuse all the terrible things that we have done, and continue to do; the inauguration looms a bit too close for that. I want to be able to say that I’ve helped my country, and my world, get even a little bit closer to those bright ideals, that beautiful dream.

Recently, I feel like I’m finally starting to make some progress. I’m moving to Virginia, to get closer to DC. I’m taking the LSATs, hoping to go to law school (Georgetown, if I’m lucky). I’m trying to get more involved in the Democratic party and charitable organizations. I hope, one day, to have a voice in the Capitol, though I worry that I might be too under-connected. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am determined to do the most I can to make a better America, and a brighter world.

It turns out 600 words isn’t quite enough. I’d love to talk to anyone about Scouts, the law, politics, software, lockpicking, urban exploration, philosophy, or anything else you care to discuss. Just send an email to fstephenq@gmail.com with ‘listserv’ in the title; I’ll do my best to respond.

Sincerely, and with all the best to you and yours,

Francis Stephen Quaratiello
Boston, Massachusetts
fstephenq@gmail.com


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