My older brother and I cried when we received the seemingly terrible news. Yet this move would be among the best things to ever happen to us. We were going to be thrust into a new environment and forced to adapt. After a few years in Costa Rica and a few years of maturing I realized the gift my life had given me. All along, especially as a walking sponge of a child, I had been absorbing great values from my exposure to a lovely variety of cultures.
From the Netherlands, my British education and my travels across Europe I picked up a drive for efficiency, punctuality and precision that has served me well. Nevertheless my core identity remained American and I drew my core values from American idealism. This American idealism was particularly untarnished by reality as I had only experienced the United States while on vacation many summers in suburban Raleigh. I was taught that the United States was a magical land where democracy, freedom, capitalism and free markets gloriously coalesced into a meritocratic society that enabled high levels of social mobility. In America anyone could become a millionaire if they worked hard enough. Though later in life I discovered that America had a long way to go to reach these ideals, it didn't change that I had them. I believe that a competitive economy is the single most effective means of development. I believe that social mobility is integral to the long term health of an economy and a society. I believe that freedom not only promotes development, but as Amartya Sen posits, freedom is development. Freedom is to be valued above and beyond the economic and social benefits it generates. Freedom is good in its own right. The capability to make choices for one self has intrinsic value.
I arrived to Costa Rica with my blend of untarnished American idealism, my pragmatic European attributes, a ten year old's sense of propriety and an understanding of the developing world that didn't extend much farther than beach resorts like Club Med Oaxaca or the nice neighborhoods of Mexico City. I'm ashamed to divulge that my first thought driving in Costa Rica next to the San Jose airport was pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. I repeated the word over and over as we drove past homes I only remember as shanty and bounced along on the pot-hole ridden street. The move to Costa Rica began my transformation into a well rounded individual with a deep appreciation for the plight of the majority of the world's people and some idea of how to help. Yet over the course of six years in Costa Rica I still harbored my illusions of the perfection of the United States. I grasped onto the belief that all Costa Rica had to do to achieve greater economic growth was copy and paste the American model. How hard could that be? How could any country really complain about their conditions when the solution was so simple, staring them in the face?
Then I moved to the United States. I enrolled in public school, supposedly one of the top 100 in the country, and I found myself once again saying pathetic. The quality of the education was obviously inferior to that I had enjoyed in private schools abroad. It made me realize that if this is one of the very best of the thousands of public schools in the United States, then the country was not the land of milk and honey I had thought it to be. My American idealism was finally tarnished. It didn't take me long to realize that many aspects of America didn't live up to my lofty ideals. My political worldview swung dramatically from a Republican ideology that there are opportunities for everyone and the poor are simply not exploiting these opportunities to a Democratic acceptance that the system is flawed and places systemic and structural obstacles in the way of lower income Americans. At this point some individuals might have suffered a collapse of idealism. Mine was reborn in a quest to make reality conform to my vision of meaningful opportunity for all. Though I am now very politically active, I recognize a need to supplement the political and social system with something new. I came upon Social Entrepreneurship and decided this concept had the potential to revolutionize the world and bring it closer to my dreams.