Several years ago, in the summer before I started high school, I attended an academic summer program for gifted children. It was a collection of the best my generation had to offer- a collection of pure genius from all around the world.
There were many different classes one could take. Over the previous year, I had moved away from math and science, and became interested in politics and writing- if you read what I wrote at 13 from what I wrote at 14, the change in quality is substantial. I chose a global politics class, taught by an eccentric instructor, Karl, who specialized in the Caucasus, and before this class had spent a semester teaching in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Great discussions were the norm- things from globalization to weapons proliferation, the bloodbath in Chechnya and the stalemate in Israel/Palestine.
What truly touched me, and fills me with deep emotion, is a short video shot by Karl himself. It’s not on the Internet and I assume relatively few people have ever watched it. Simply put, it is history unfolding.
For the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Karl was an election monitor affiliated with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). When inconsistencies the run-off between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych became evident, there arose allegations of fraud conducted on behalf of the pro-Russian Yanukovych.
Shortly after the results became clear, Karl was walking in the capital of Kiev. Suddenly, he heard noises coming from down the road. He turned around and was awestruck.
It was a protest march. Not a few people- thousands, marching forward to Independence Square in the center of the city. Orange banners and signs all over the place. Karl began shooting from a hand-cam- he was backpeddling away from the front of the march as it pressed forward. Later he was there to witness Yushchenko take the presidential oath of office in front of the massive assembly. He did not have the authority to do so, but it became clear- the people would not take electoral fraud.
After two months, the results were thrown out by the Ukrainian Supreme Court. In a re-run, Yushchenko won by eight points.
I don’t know precisely why I decided to tell this story, only that being a witness to history in its raw, unedited form is incredible. Karl’s video shows the startling nature of when a country moves in a surprising direction. It isn’t a news report, there’s no editorializing. It’s just something to witness and appreciate.
Take a chance, and try to be a part of history. Fight for something, march for something, vote for something. It’s the best feeling you can have- better than money, or sex, or personal achievement. It’s the feeling that the world is just a little bit better than it was before. And you were there to witness.