For a college senior like me, the beginning of the Fall semester is a time to look forward, consider job prospects and tie up loose ends academically. It is also a time to reflect on experiences, good and bad, from the last three years. As my journey at UF has shown, a semester or two in college can alter the course of your life.
First, a little about me.
Coming to the University of Florida in Summer B 2016, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do for a living. I knew that I was interested in political campaigning, but I wasn’t convinced that it was a viable career for someone like me who didn’t have the luxury of being born into a well-connected or wealthy family. While I could have chosen a more financially lucrative field, I chose to pursue my passion.
It made sense that I would study politics. After all, I’m the type of guy who actually watches C-SPAN for fun (not just as a means to fall asleep on a restless night). I vote in municipal elections. I can often be found knocking on strangers’ doors on behalf of a Democrat running for office.
Early on in my time at UF, I decided that I wouldn’t restrict my studies to the classroom. I would be an active participant in our democracy.
In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, I was disappointed but mobilized. I knew I had to do something, so a friend and I decided that we would volunteer for a campaign.
At the start of the Spring 2017 semester, I took an Uber ride to northwest Gainesville that prompted my involvement in local politics. Somehow, I found myself meandering awkwardly through a political house party attended by dozens of strangers. After snacking on some cheese and crackers, I learned of an opportunity to intern for the campaign, and I decided I would give it a shot. Hundreds of door knocks and phone calls later, I had the privilege of being part of now-Commissioner Harvey Ward’s winning campaign for the Gainesville City Commission.
Later that semester, I set my sights on campus. I had observed in passing that Student Government was inaccessible to the average student like me. Nothing exemplified this reality more than the fact that there was only one political party representing the student body: Impact Party. This frustrated me to the point where I started pondering if I could change things. I knew that others shared these feelings. We decided to take action. In Fall 2017, I served as the founding president of Inspire Party. We broke into the single-party system in Student Government, and I was elected as a senator.
I share my introduction to politics at UF because it is a testament to the possibilities that exist when we dare to put ourselves out there.
We face some big issues in society, including right here at UF. For things to change, we can’t wait for others to put in the work. We have to do it ourselves. As President Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
This semester, defy your status quo. Step outside of your comfort zone. Be the change.
Ben Lima is a UF political science senior.