Gracious Loser

My copy of George J Mitchell’s Making Peace, which has been printed in reverse. I was so enthralled by this publishing fluke that I made it the topic of my application essay.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about today, until about an hour ago when this news showed up on my Twitter feed:

Briefly, the Department of State has reversed a decision to cease contributions to the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, a postgraduate fellowship program for Americans 18-30. Today they announced that funds will continue for the 2013-2014 academic year, which means the current application process can go forward. This also gives the US-Ireland Alliance more time to raise the endowment that would make State contributions less vital to the program’s existence.

For an official press release, visit

I’ve been keeping this story in my peripheral vision all summer long, not quite knowing how to act. I didn’t sign the petition or write to Congress, and I certainly didn’t donate any money. I just sort of quietly watched it all unfold.

See, I applied for the Mitchell, put a lot of my hopes in the Mitchell, and because I did not receive the Mitchell, part of me got a lot of twisted pleasure out of the possibility that pretty soon, no one would be receiving the Mitchell.

It’s like when the dude who broke your heart in college sends you an email 5 years later saying that he’s just gotten divorced. You feel this brief euphoric rush of “I told you so” mixed with “I hope she cheated on you so you finally know how badly that hurts” and a splash of “you obviously can’t make it work with anybody.” Then, immediately afterward, comes the guilt. The guilt of knowing that this is a real human life dealing with loss, and just because you have been hurt in the past by the very same person does not make it okay to rejoice in their suffering. Inflicting pain on others is something we need to avoid at all costs; it doesn’t make us feel any better, and only serves to push the wheel of hate and anger around for another spin.

I’m probably not going to sign the petition. I won’t be writing to Congress. Those aren’t things I do on a regular basis, so I’m not going out my way to do them now. Still, I hope more underdogs like me apply for the Mitchell. I hope my university learned from my application process and one of these more talented kids will take an interest in the MItchell too. Maybe someone will even read this blog post and decide to apply. If so, here’s another link for you:

On Facebook and Twitter, it looks like he and his wife might be working things out. I can only wish them the best. Maybe someday, when all this is forgotten and we’re facing grand new troubles that can’t help but unite us in our shared humanity, we’ll be able to smile and say hello.

And maybe on another day in that distant dazzling future, when I’m rich and successful and have paid off my student loans from grad school in Ireland, I can look back on this and laugh… then donate some money to the Mitchell Scholarship program.