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HARPER: Learn to embrace your inner dork

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Brian Harper

I have a confession to make: I don’t read Marquette’s News Briefs.

Not thoroughly at least. Sometimes, if I’m feeling guilty for not knowing more about what’s happening on campus, I glance over them. When I do this, I usually end up learning about scholarships I am not eligible for, events I have scheduling conflicts with and lectures I am not interested in.

The first item on yesterday’s News Briefs, however, was a game changer. The e-mail announced Pulitzer Prize-winning author/historian David McCullough will be the spring 2011 commencement speaker.

“Yes!” I thought to myself, “A nationally renowned figure I have actually heard of and respect. Bully work, Marquette!”

I immediately called my mom to share the news. At first she thought I was talking about a soap opera actor from the ‘80s, but once I brought her up to speed, she reciprocated my enthusiasm.

I moved on to spread the good tidings to my roommate Mike. He agreed that McCullough would be a quality speaker but was more subdued in his satisfaction.

“I’m not sure how many people will know who he is,” he explained.

I realized Mike was right. But more than that, I realized I had been exposed as a dork. An American history-loving dork.

I have always been into history. When I was 7 years old, my dad bought me a book containing every American president’s portrait and brief official biography. The sad part is, I can’t even attribute this purchase to parental cruelty; I asked him to buy it for me.

Soon after, I could name the presidents in order. I could also spout off the basic bio of John F. Kennedy, who seemed to be a lot cooler than guys like Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland.

This led me to begin reading a more extended children’s series of presidential biographies. I even rented the movie “Knute Rockne: All American” from the library after learning that before becoming president and pounding on the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan had been an actor.

The great thing about this little passion of mine was how much my parents and teachers encouraged it.

The problem was the social implications of my interest. Most first through third graders don’t seem to have a savvy awareness of what is and is not cool.

But once a kid approaches his or her final years of elementary school and enters middle school, coolness means everything. And besides John F. Kennedy, the Presidents of the United States are decidedly un-cool. And even un-cooler is reading books about them.

So, I let my historical leanings lapse. I didn’t want to spend middle school inside a locker or getting my lunch dumped in my lap. While I had gone through elementary school proud of the fact I was fascinated by something no one else seemed to find captivating, I was now inclined to fit in and be insipidly ordinary.

Fortunately, I returned to being myself in high school. Perhaps my frequent time spent on the junior varsity basketball bench made me immune to concerns about being popular.

Whatever it was, by junior year I was unapologetically doing an extensive research project on The Beach Boys, who were sort of like the George Washingtons of surf music. By senior year, I was quoting Bobby Kennedy in a National Honor Society speech. I was back.

Over the years, I have come to realize that everyone is a nerd for something. My dad collects annual copies of a science fiction anthology, my friend Dave likes to research famous Mafia families and my roommate Bobby owns all 13 of ELO’s studio albums.

These quirky pursuits are what give our lives offbeat, abnormal color. Denying going to Clinton Presidential Library last spring break because I’m afraid of what people think makes me worse than weird. It makes me boring.

So embrace the geek inside of you. You won’t regret it. Just look at me. I may work for a free newspaper and have only 11 followers on Twitter, but I know that I love American history, and that American history loves me.

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