Mr. President

This is a story that I started writing when I started writing Programming: 2023 in Review's section on BMCC. It quickly started growing out of proportion so I decided to give it its own piece here.

I had wanted to join a community of people who were like me, newly passionate about CS and full of ambition. I'll admit that at BMCC I found it a little more difficult to locate this cadre than I expected. What I found instead was that community college was (largely) a group of people who have been beaten down spiritually and academically their whole lives (no, I am not going to unpack that massive anecdote here). People who had always been told you're not able, don't bother, or just do something simple. Therefore, I took it upon myself to tell them you can, you should, and you must.

I joined the school's programming club in the fall. I quickly felt I had a vision in mind too sweet to not take action on so in the Spring I won the position of President (actually I'd wanted to be vice president because I thought it would be less paper-work but the president mysteriously went AWOL).

It was difficult journey adjusting to the presidency. Our budget was through the school so naturally using the money for just about anything was a huge undertaking. I adopted a 'forgiveness rather than permission' policy though which helped in funding many of our activities and the lion's share of our catering bill.

Meetings in particular were difficult to manage, as I had a particularly busy schedule and was also the only officer who was willing to commit my time every Wednesday to being at our meetings. I recall trying on several occasions to come up with beautiful interactive labs/lessons on various topics like compiler optimization, git, and game development on the web with vanilla JS. I also can clearly recall, while my arms waved and Hagoromo chalk flew across the blackboard, the way glass eyes peered at me from the crowd, and the solemnity which deserters carried as they exited the room prematurely. I knew, something had to change. By now the meeting populations had dwindled to the committed few, the crème de la crème as I referred to them.

Then an idea struck me.

At the next meeting, before diving down the rabbit hole on the inventive origins of Python's docx library, I decided to take the meeting down a different route.

"Did I ever tell you kids about the time I nearly died at seas in a sailing voyage?", I said with as much gravity and old-man energy as a twenty-one year old can muster.

The murmuring dims, the heads begin to rise, the individuals leaving the classroom stop in their tracks-

"Oh yes, you heard right, my fine comrades. You see, much like debugging lines of code in the realm of programming, navigating the treacherous waters of that harrowing August afternoon demanded an unwavering determination to untangle the chaos and restore equilibrium against all odds. On that day, what began as a..."

As I regaled them with this story, over the course of about 80 minutes, the room was both shaken and visibly stirred. Hardly any of its occupants knew what to make of it; half would grimace and attempt to bear the intensity of this watery journey, while the other would frequently burst into tears. By the end of it, the crowd all but got on their knees and started praying.

From then on, every Wednesday at 4PM became less about the little things: Docker, Neovim vs Emacs, and variadic templates. And more about the bigger picture of programming: sailing, wine, and Rachmaninoff.

-Peter V.