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The Other Side of the River

I had sparked my own interest in social and political issues through watching
documentary after documentary online, topics ranging from homelessness to climate
change. But it was politics that especially held my attention. I was a week into a personal
hiatus from my usual habit of scouring the internet for new documentaries, as the thought of
sitting through even one more with the knowledge that I have no way of creating change
was torturous. It was by chance that I met Danny Macovei on the campus of the University
of Cincinnati on a particularly warm and inviting day as he sat at a small table. The booth
that he and a current student had set up was the first act of the newly formed Cincinnati
chapter of Represent.Us, a political activist organization focused on campaign finance reform
through grassroots efforts. It was there that I spoke with him and all but joined the chapter
of two members by volunteering to sit at the booth and give out fliers while Danny took a
smoke break.
I was excited to learn that neither Danny, a graduate from the university with a
double major in physics and mathematics, nor the other student had concrete roles set in
the organization. I had the perfect opportunity to act upon my craving for meaningful
activism if only I was persistent and willing enough. I offered more of my time and effort
than I was asked and I was pleased to do so. I continued with Danny, growing Represent.Us
in Cincinnati and I consider us to be good friends. The primary reason why I had chosen this
project as my honors experience was to learn more about activism while I was away from
campus over summer break; Danny lives in Cincinnati and I live Lexington, KY. It is this
reason why I felt irony while interviewing him because both of us had moved away from our
start with the short lived chapter; he for having differences from the organization on how to
best advance campaign finance reform, and I for moving away for a 3 month time and was
now too busy with the new semester to continue. I enjoyed getting to know and spend time
with Danny over the course of a few months, both of us putting in a large amount of effort to
find out how to implement the goals of our organization in Cincinnati. At the time of our
interview, he had decided to no longer be a part of Represent.Us and was flirting with the
idea of starting law school to better effect the change that he wanted to see.
My time with Represent.Us and, more substantially, with Danny opened my eyes to
the nuances and complexities of the problems we face in the United States and all over the
world. Specifically with politics I gained a deeper understanding of why things work as they
do. It often seems to casual observers that the mechanisms of politics, truly integral to our
society, move and shift autonomously without any real affect by regular citizens. Contrary to
this view, there are most always either deep ideologies or some historical context that can
help to explain how and why our politics move. Danny mentions the usefulness of trying to
put oneself in the mindset of the opposing viewpoint. By critically analyzing which
arguments hold water you can gain important perspective. I must have never tried hard
enough because, when I finally had, it was shocking how grey a topic can be when it seems
both sides only agree on the issue of how clearly black and white it is.
I asked Danny what Americas greatest challenges would be towards the end of the
interview. He responded with an explanation of how climate change and stable governments
around the world were the two largest challenges. When I pressed him to explain why
anybody should care to tackle either of these issues, he gave an answer that I thought was
very poignant. If you took life in a nation with an unstable government and a low GDP and

placed it on the other side of the Ohio River with life in Cincinnati staying the same, he
stated, would it be as easy to do nothing? He then explained that for him, it didnt matter
whether that nation and those people within it were on the other side of an ocean or the
other side of the river. I feel similarly and I think that we would all do better to internalize
this type of empathy for others.
Once our interview was over, I perused my camera to confirm that the video had all
been recorded. Danny stood over my shoulder, wanting to see what he looked like speaking.
I cant remember the last time I had seen myself speak on camera so I understood his
curiosity. We walked out of my dorm and I suggested we get lunch together sometime soon
as he got into his car.