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Taking Over the World from Illinois

June 16, 2013

More than two and half months after my last post, I’m back. A lot of has happened in the interim, not the least of which is the fact that I am writing this from Champaign, Illinois.

In my previous post, I argued in favor of the referendum by the School District of Phillips to raise property taxes by $650,000 annually for five years. The election clearly mobilized a lot of voters, and the referendum ultimately failed to pass by just six (6!) votes. Although I was disappointed by the result, I know the school board and new superintendent will continue to do the best they can to provide quality education to the district’s students with the resources available to them. Maybe the next referendum, and there will almost certainly be another one within the next few years unless the state government gets its act together, will be the one that finally passes. As an aside, my support for this referendum has shown me that I am perhaps less of a libertarian purist that I had previously thought, although my views still appear extremist to non-libertarians. As much as I may support a decentralized, parent-driven education system in theory, I don’t think that the current students should have to suffer while the unions and Governor Walker shoot it out, especially as the quality of these students’ education will greatly affect their future opportunities and ability to take advantage of their God-given freedoms.

I have finished up my online work with Ballotpedia, a project of the Madison-based Lucy Burns Institute. The first of our three-part “Who Runs the States?” research project, on which I spent most of my work time during the past few months, was released last month and analyzes the extent to which each of the 50 state governments have been under Democratic or Republican sway since 1992. If you’re a political junkie like me, you can read the whole report here. Others may want to start with our nifty infographic. All in all, I am very blessed to have had the chance to work with the amazing staff of LBI to help educate the public about our political system and to do this all over the Internet while living at home.

I also further cheapened the Free Spirit Runner brand with yet another subpar race. After running a great three-quarter marathon in Medford in April as my longest pre-marathon run, I got a bit overoptimistic about my level of fitness. During the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon on May 19, I thus fell back into my usual pattern of going out at a fast pace and watching things fall apart partway into the race. I was reduced to an absolute shuffle jog for most of the second half of the race but did win a small moral victory by not stopping and walking. Also, my bad races are getting faster. This 3:54:23 was the second fastest of my five marathons and more than 40 minutes faster than my fiasco of a marathon on the same course in 2010. I don’t care how many tries it takes me, I will pull together some fast marathon finishes.

For six weeks or so, I also had the privilege of coaching the Phillips Middle School boys and girls track and field teams. I enjoyed this so much more than I had expected. I am so proud of each and every student athlete who came out and competed with us. They are such a great group of kids and have so much potential in the sport! For more information and team pictures, see my summary of the season, which ran in last week’s issue of THE-BEE.

Someone else I am very proud of is my sister Maureen, who just graduated from Phillips High School with honors. She will be going to Lawrence University this fall. The school district is safe again now that all three Marshall kids are out. Of course, now we just wreak havoc in the wider world.

While coaching, I couldn’t help but remember my students back in Moshi, Tanzania. I left Moshi on December 17, nearly six months ago, and after immersing myself in Ballotpedia and Phillips, I find myself reflecting more and more about my time there. As I have told a number of people, I will never know how much “good” I accomplished, if such a thing could even be quantified, and I know I made more than my share of mistakes while there. However, I am continuing to see the ways that God used my experiences, both good and bad, during those two years to mold me and help me become who I am meant to be. I pray that I continue to be ever more open to God’s call in my life as my journey continues.

And speaking of my journey, I have made some decisions about where, Lord willing, to continue my studies. A week ago, I arrived in Champaign, Illinois, and on Monday, I started eight weeks of Swahili language training here through the Summer Institute for the Languages of the Muslim World at the University of Illinois. It’s been great to get back into the language which transformed nearly every aspect of my life in Tanzania, a language which connects me back to the previous two years and which is useful for research and perhaps professional purposes in the future. In mid-August, I will begin the two-year Master of International Affairs in Comparative and Regional Studies program at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC. I will be among the students in the African regional concentration. I will also be working with a professor as a graduate research assistant. I am very excited about this next step and grateful for everyone who has helped me reach this point in my life.

That’s probably enough random updates for this post. Hopefully, I will actually write a few more reflective posts during my time here in Champaign.

 

May the Truth always set us free,

Andy

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