I'm applying for the Johnson Scholarship at W&L, and this is my essay.
Here's the prompt: "Describe a work of art that influenced you, and describe that influence." (I already cleared using movie with an adcom)
"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most." Such was Uncle Hub's advice to Walter in the 2003 movie Secondhand Lions, a film full of inspiration and insight. The story revolves around Walter, a twelve-year-old boy from the city who is forced to spend a summer with his two eccentric, reclusive uncles in rural west Texas. Uncle Hub and Uncle Garth are the embodiment of the archetypal "manly man," with their shotguns, propensity for swearing, and largely meat-based diets. Over the course of a few months with his newfound relatives, young Walter hears the story of his uncles' North African exploits, adopts a pet lion, and learns what it means to be a man. As a viewer of the movie, I accompanied Walter, hearing what he heard and learning what he learned. Near the end, Uncle Hub delivered a short impromptu speech to Walter. Although it only lasted about twenty seconds, Uncle Hub's "What Every Boy Needs to Know about Being a Man" speech made me think critically about how I live my own life.
The main point of Uncle Hub's makeshift speech is summarized in his poignant statement about what a man needs to believe. Although it may seem confusing at first, this avowal has merit when I apply it myself. More specifically, Uncle Hub's words validate my personal outlook and my faith– the aspects that most clearly define any person.
First, Secondhand Lions validates my idealistic outlook. After his profound statement about what a man needs to believe, Uncle Hub went on to clarify what he meant. He told Walter that it is necessary to believe that "people are basically good" and that "honor, courage, and virtue mean everything." In my personal experience, I have found that maintaining such a sense of optimism, in addition to adhering to a morally justifiable code of conduct, to be invaluable. While the modern world may not put these values in high esteem, belief in them and in their preservation is still indispensable to the individual, as Secondhand Lions has shown me.
Furthermore, Uncle Hub's speech made me consider my faith. Faith, after all, implies a jump of belief to something that is not definitively true. According to Uncle Hub, making such a leap is essential for every man, and I share this belief. Throughout my life, I've experienced periods of doubt and skepticism regarding the existence of a god. Yet Secondhand Lions helps me regain my perspective. Uncle Hub's words remind me that, although my faith is not based in fact, it is still a necessary component of my life. True or not, belief simply for the sake of belief is imperative.
In short, Secondhand Lions has shown me that oftentimes the things that are not necessarily true are the ones that are worth believing in. In particular, Uncle Hub's "What Every Boy Needs to Know about Being a Man" speech has stressed to me the importance of undeterred optimism, old-fashioned values, and unquestioning faith. Altogether, these values constitute my personal code of conduct. At Washington and Lee, a school renowned for its emphasis on honor and integrity, such a code of conduct will serve me well.
Thanks for your input.