Trapped under fluorescent lights, I felt the heat of 69 sets of eyes beating down on me. Hiding my violently shaking hands behind my back, I feared that my carefully planned speech would morph into an off-key chorus of voice-cracking and awkwardly long pauses. Somehow I mustered enough confidence to address the room. “Hello everyone,” I said. “Welcome to Ethos Magazine.”
My crippling fear of public speaking began in sixth grade when I gave a campaign speech for class vice president. That day my voice quivered, and my classmates’ eyes felt like a barrage of arrows whistling my direction. Unsurprisingly, I lost the election. I vowed, in my 11-year-old wisdom, to avoid all public speaking for the rest of my life.
I succeeded for nine years, such as the occasion when an impeccably-timed “illness” saved me from analyzing Bridge to Terabithia in front of my English class. My terror of being unwillingly thrust under a spotlight even doomed a required violin solo when an unexplained “fever” kept me home that day. And in my first two years of college, I combed through syllabuses to ensure that I would not see time in the front of a classroom.
What I have come to understand since then is that while an individual’s struggles, including my fear of public speaking, seem to only exist in a solitary, scary bubble, they are likely relatable for countless others. As we grow, we also realize that however challenging our own struggles may be, there are others with circumstances that make ours pale by comparison. Aging breeds empathy—a more acute awareness and a sense of compassion about the struggles found in broader society.
With the goal of furthering empathy, this issue of Ethos Magazine focuses on exploring struggle as a human condition locally, nationally, and globally. We can’t ignore the severity of regional struggle found in “The Hip-Hop Police” (Page 24) by Ruben Garcia, about Portland rappers trying to grow northwest hip hop despite being unfairly targeted for perpetuating gang culture. Understanding their attempts to express themselves while overcoming misguided judgment helps us appreciate similar struggles of individuals around the world.
Within these pages you’ll find remarkable stories concerning struggles with addiction, money, and breaking vicious cycles. You’ll read about Oregonians living in the sex industry and an Iraqi student whose American education was funded for him, but with the daunting proviso that he return to Iraq to help build a better country.
To be sure, my fear of public speaking seems trivial by comparison, but I had to face it nonetheless. By the time I entered my last ever Ethos staff meeting, I confidently addressed the 100 students in the lecture hall. Long gone were the shaking hands and quavering voice. Thrown into the fire, I conquered my fear and surprised myself by loving the heat.
As a newly minted college graduate, I’ll soon leave this campus having learned a thing or two—who I am, what I’m capable of, and perhaps most importantly that we can all benefit from fostering empathy for others throughout the world. I have University of Oregon, Ethos Magazine and our dedicated staff to thank for that.
Editor in Chief