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The Power of Tolerance-CommonApp Essay


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Hi everyone, I'm trying to write an essay for the commonapp question, "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you." or "Topic of your choice."
This is a first draft, and I'm writing for undergraduate first year early decision to Cornell. HELP! Please critique as honestly as possible, and let me know if its too cliched or too controversial or whatever.
Thanks guys!

The Power of Tolerance

"Go back to where you came from, you stupid towel-heads!" he screamed.
I froze, one foot in the cab.
"Keep moving, Khushbakht. Ignore him," whispered my mother, urging me into the yellow taxi.
I remained frozen, unable to move. I stared at the boy. Male, about 16 years old. Brown hair. Brown eyes. He wore Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt. Very average, very normal. He could be anyone. The boy bagging the groceries. The boy who sat next to me in Algebra. The paper boy. Yet, this one was significant because he was yelling at us. At me.
"What are you starin' at you terrorists?! Get the hell off this street! We don't want you here!"
My mother pushed me inside the cab and climbed in after me. The taxi driver turned, forced to drive past the boy standing in his driveway in order to get us home.
"Yeah, you! You filthy traitor terrorists Muslims! Leave, and don't come back! This isn't your country!" he screamed, and threw a baseball at our passing cab. It bounced off the windshield, leaving a crack and rolled off the hood as our cab driver sped off.
"Mom... why was he saying that?" I asked, shell-shocked.
"Sometimes these things happen. It's alright, it's not his fault. He's ignorant, he's young, and this is what he's been taught."
"No. No. That's no excuse. How could he say that? I'm just as American as he is. What's so different between me and him?" I asked weakly.
"Sometimes, the color of your skin, the way you carry yourself, anything different at all is enough to breed intolerance," our cab driver softly uttered, her chocolate skin gleaming in the passing streetlights. "Don't worry child. We are not all like him."
"But... I don't understand. That can't be the only reason. This is America! this country was made so that different people could live together in harmony! I'm American! I'm patriotic! I know the national anthem; I say the pledge of allegiance every day. What's so different about his upbringing and mine? We both grew up watching Arthur and reading Junie B. Jones. This is America for God's sake. The land of the free and the home of the brave! What happened to the constitution? What happened to freedom from religious oppression?" I fumed, a desperate note in my voice.
My mother looked at me with a sad, knowing smile on her face.
"No! Just because I'm Muslim, I'm a terrorist? Is that what you think too?" I asked the cab driver bitterly. "That we're stupid towel heads who should go back to where we came from? That we're all terrorists?"
She remained silent, staring straight ahead. Just when I thought she wouldn't answer, she softly said, "Child, your battle isn't with me."
"Then who is it with?"
"Khushbakht! Stop it!" My mother said sharply.
I sat silently in the backseat, infuriately staring out the window.
"Let me tell you something, child," the cabdriver gently said. "Getting angry won't solve anything. It won't make them accept you. The way to show them that you too, are human, that you too, are a person, and not just a labeled product of propaganda, is actually quite simple...
You must meet intolerance with tolerance. You must fight ignorance with knowledge. You must accept who you are and be at peace with the person you've become first, and only then will anyone accept you. You must meet hate with love, my dear. And that is how you combat this sort of adversity."
To this day, I do not know the names of either the boy who screamed his words of anathema and bigotry, or the woman who softly taught me the most valuable lesson of my life. I was an angry and defensive teenager who had just moved to Georgia recently after 9/11. I had never before faced this sort of intolerance. After 9/11, it was hard enough accepting myself and my cultural identity as a Pakistani muslim when it seemed as if the whole world had labelled us as 'terrorists.' That woman taught me that you cannot meet hate with hate. Instead, you must face intolerance with tolerance. She taught me that you must be proud of who you are and respect yourself before anyone else will respect you. She showed me that for every bigot in the world, there was a kinder and more tolerant person.
The lessons she taught me impacted me greatly. They have helped me become the person that I am today. I realize now that she was right on every count. In order to fix something wrong in the world, you must be prepared to change it yourself. As Cherie Carter Scott once said, "Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were." Today, I do not counter this sort of outright prejudice with resentment and fury any longer. Instead of becoming angry and insolent, I now introduce to these people the power of knowledge in order to combat their ignorance with the might of my words; to help them understand that intolerance will never solve anything.

This is a wonderful essay in my honest opinion. I only saw a couple of mistakes and they could happen to anyone. I'm sure if you re-read your essay they will jump out to you. If you can not find them post here and I will point them out. I find that it is easier for me to write my essay and put it down for a day, so that I forget about it. Then I go back and re-read it and my grammatical errors seem to jump off the page at me and I wonder how I could have ever made such a mistake. You essay made me emotional and that is the point of any essay like this. Yours will stand out in the judges minds because you evoked emotion with your writing. Good LUCK!!
This is a great essay! I love this part especially:

"He could be anyone. The boy bagging the groceries. The boy who sat next to me in Algebra. The paper boy. Yet, this one was significant because he was yelling at us. At me."


I think you should work on reducing the amount of dialogue/quotations and write more about your own ideas. Also, you could use an example of how you became more tolerant after this ordeal.

But overall, wonderful job :)
Thank you so much Socialorphan. :) And I would really appreciate it if you would take the time to point out the grammatical mistakes, I think I'm missing them.

And thank you, ih8artichokes. Alright, I'll try to reduce the dialogue and expand on how it affected me..

And now from both of you and whoever else can comment.. Are you sure its not too long? And do you think it would be good enough for Cornell? Its not overdone, or cliched, or too controversial? I would love it if you guys could point out any other ways I could improve it!
How many words is it? I was riveted reading the essay. However, I felt as if it was more of a story because it was so heavy on the dialogue and not as much on the personal reflection. If you have room, I'd add more about how this affected you, or if not, take out some dialogue in order to make
room.

khushbakht:
I was As an angry and defensive teenager who had just moved to Georgia recently shortly after 9/11, I had never before faced this sort of intolerance.


I might actually suggest taking out the 9/11 part in this sentence, as it feels awkward. Especially since you mention it in the very next sentence, it may not be necessary.

khushbakht:
After 9/11, it was hard enough difficult accepting myself


khushbakht:
Today, I do not no longer counter this sort of outright prejudice with resentment and fury. any longer


Overall a wonderful story and piece of writing. Good luck!
It doesn't seem too long. My own essay for early decision Penn is around 775-800 words. Of course, I'm going to try shortening it but anything between 600-850 isn't INCREDIBLY long, as long as you aren't being redundant or anything. What you have should be fine.

And I don't think this is that controversial, especially since you're focusing on tolerance and how it helped you grow.

:) well done!
khushbakht:
"What are you starin' at you terrorists?! Get the hell off this street! We don't want you here!"

You know, every once in a while I am reminded that evolution is sort of staggered. Like, I am pretty sure that some of the people living today are at different stages of evolution than others.

khushbakht:
"Sometimes, the color of your skin, the way you carry yourself

Well, it is the 9/11 attack that really fuels it. Aggressive action by some Americans has given America a bad reputation in many countries, and aggressive action by some Christians has given Christianity a bad reputation, and aggressive action by some Muslims has given Islam a bad reputation. It is too bad that some people take a aggressive action, and it is too bad that, when they do, some other people are so ignorant that they judge a whole category of us based on what some nutcases have done.

Hey, you are using dialogue very well. I know dialogue is hard to do, and you really do it well here. Also, I see no errors other than 'recently' which was corrected by Michael.

The conclusion is really eloquent....

face intolerance with tolerance--- well, don't tolerate too much intolerance! Sometimes you have to punch intolerance in the face. Punches to the face: that is how the Zen Master Rinzai sometimes taught, and I bet the method still works today.
Wow, this essay truly had me hooked!

khushbakht:
That woman taught me that you cannot meet hate with hate. Instead, you must face intolerance with tolerance. She taught me that you must be proud of who you are and respect yourself before anyone else will respect you. She showed me that for every bigot in the world, there was a kinder and more tolerant person.


Thats my favorite part from the whole essay, it shows the admission dean your moral and values. For the length, I think its fine but you could maybe cut out some dialogue. Its a great piece of writing. Good luck!
Thank you so much everyone! You've been a great help. I did write one other personal statement, "The Girl From Nowhere", could you guys take a look and see which one would be better, this one or that one?



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