PART 1 of 3: YEARS OF CHANGE ONE NEVER SEES
Several years ago, at the same time director Jonathan Goodman Levitt’s real-life political coming-of-age documentary Follow the Leader begins, I was in a similar place as the film’s young subjects. I was the same age as Nick, Ben, and D.J., and it was the summer before my senior year of high school. I, too, was attending a Boys State program (like the boys do in the opening sequence of the film). As a young, politically ambitious student with dreams of one day being President of the United States, the only difference between myself and this film’s subjects was geography and the fact that I was a young liberal instead of a young conservative. My own political journey as an adolescent began as a conservative, though, so even more direct parallels still exist.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a small preview screening of Follow the Leader, and I can say with complete sincerity that Follow the Leader was an almost frighteningly accurate and insightful examination of what it means to come of age in our modern political environment. Like no other film, it digs deeply into, unpacks and exposes the social, psychological, and environmental factors that have shaped our current generation of young leaders.
When politicians are displayed on the big screen, it is invariably after they have “made it.” The only moments in politician’s lives (unless they become a nationally significant figure and they write their own memoirs) that we ever see are those times when they’ve reached the national spotlight. What we almost never get to see is Bill Clinton at Georgetown, President Obama as a young high school student in Hawaii, or Mitt Romney at Brigham Young University. Think about that for a second though. In the life of a young intellectual or any young ambitious person, the beginning of college and the final year of high school are the most transformative years of your life. The changes to your personality stay with you the rest of your life and influence your entire worldview.
If your college/high school education accomplishes what it was meant to, your entire system of thought changes. And the way that you analyze and process the world around you is markedly different than when it began. In Follow the Leader, you see these explosive, dynamic years in the lives of young leaders as they’re happening, and as someone who walked virtually the same path as the film’s subjects, it was a surprisingly emotional experience.
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