Monday, June 29, 2009

Ivy Scholars Reading: Update 1

I apologize for not posting sooner, but I've been having a pretty crazy summer, which will undoubtedly be even more interesting with my summer program at Yale.

So far, I have finished three books--Never Eat Alone, The Prince, and The Art of War--and I'm working on two more (The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and The Return of History and the End of Dreams).

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi is an inspirational and autobiographical guide to networking and simultaneously achieving success. It taught me many valuable lessons in setting and achieving goals, interacting with others, and making every moment count. Ferazzi is a Yale and Harvard graduate and a successful business man who grew up as a small-town boy with hardworking (but not rich) parents. His story is especially valuable to me because I am [just] a small-town girl of a hardworking middle-class family, and I have big dreams of attending a prestigious school and attaining success in business. I like the fact, however, that although Ferazzi has "made it", he stresses in Never Eat Alone that you must never forget where you came from and that you must acknowledge the people whom helped you along the way. I hope to incorporate my knowledge from this book during the Ivy Scholars program and in my day-to-day affairs as well. I'm glad that Mr. Ramsey recommended this book to everyone in the ILC, because it makes one realize the important role forming lasting relationships plays in achieving one's dreams in this interdependent world we live in today.

The Prince, though also presenting the secrets to success, has a completely different set of goals and morals. Machiavelli explains to a prince [Lorenzo di Medici] how to acquire a state, how to maintain a state, and everything else in between. Surely I will not follow some Machiavellian ideas, such as acquiring a state and then murdering everyone whom helped stage my coup d'etat, but The Prince also contains less grotesque ideas that I have learned much from. These include relying on virtue rather than fortune. After reading it, I now understand why The Prince is considered "the most famous book on politics ever written". Machiavelli presents extremely well thought-out philosophies in a blunt and logical manner. When I first started reading it, I understood what I was reading, but I soon realized that I was not quite retaining all the information Machiavelli threw at me. In order to grasp it all and retain it better, I summarized every single paragraph of the text. I wrote it in a notebook, but I will type it up soon and post it on the blog. My summaries aren't as profound as Machiavelli's prose, but they capture the essence of his ideas and have helped me truly understand and easily remember what I've read.

The Art of War, though thousands of years old, presents an outlook on life that is as fresh and insightful today as it was in the 6th century B.C. It transcends boundaries such as culture and military use as well. Although it was created in China, its advice is just as useful in the Western world. Additionally, despite being primarily associated with the military, its insight is applicable to just about anything. When I first read the title, "The Art of War", I thought that I would be learning about things that cannot be applied to my daily life. However, now after having finished the book, the maxim of "taking whole"--valuing victory over battle--is just as applicable in high school drama and academic success as it is on the battlefield. I especially love the diction of the Sun Tzu--it's a cross between prose and poetry. I am glad that the translators did their best to capture the same feel in English. One of my favorite passages is Knowing the other and knowing oneself,
In one hundred battles no danger.
Not knowing the other and knowing oneself,
One victory for one loss.
Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself,
In every battle certain defeat.

I can clearly see why this ancient work, with its advocacy of approaching conflict with knowledge and situation-specific strategy, is still very relevant today.

I am eager to see how these three books will factor into our lessons in grand strategy at Yale. While reading them, I was already making many AP U.S. History-related correlations in my head, such as the bombing of Hiroshima, whch was a speedy way to end WWII, is justified by a line from Sun Tzu that says "there has never been a military prolonging that has brought advantage to the state".

Now, I just have to finish seven more books before we're off to Yale! I will definitely make progress because I will be going to New York City for a week. I will have two six-hour long plane rides and many subway rides in which I can read the books.

Three more weeks!

My thoughts so far

On June 6 I returned from the Summer Leaders Seminar program at West Point Academy and just this past Saturday I returned from Boys' State program at Sacramento State University. While these programs were excellent in their own right I couldn't help but wonder if they might fail in comparison to the rigorous Ivy Scholars Program at Yale.

About 1000 participants were chosen from around the nation to attend each of the first two programs mentioned. These individuals were among the most talented kids I've ever met. That being said, I'm almost afraid to think of what the talent will be like at a program where only 60 individuals are chosen from around the globe! I can't express how honored I was, and am, to be accepted into an elite group of individuals such as the ones who will be attending the Ivy Scholars Program. Already, through the intensive reading, it has become apparent to me that we are gaining an enlightened view of the world which few are exposed to at our age. While I am thrilled by the opportunity to participate in a program of this stature, I am also sobered by its prestige. I realize that I will have to buckle down and focus in order to be able to deliver among elite individuals such as the ones attending this program. This is an opportunity very few are afforded in high school and I plan to take advantage of it as much as possible.

As for the reading list, I have finished 3 out of the 10 books assigned to us and all I can say is, "wow". The books I've completed so far are Never Eat Alone, The Prince, and The Return of History (all of which have been previously summarized in this blog). These books have changed my perspective of the world in ways I could only explain to you in person. I am working on The Post-American World and hope to finish it by tomorow. With the exception of The Prince, I have tried to first read the books which are about modern society. Once I complete these readings, I will begin to digest the other books which are more about ancient philosophy and history. This will allow me to create my own ideas about how these philosophies and historic events have shaped our modern world. My father, a political science major, is reading the books along with me both for his own pleasure (because they are truly amazing reads), and in order to help me digest the concepts and explore my ideas more thoroughly.

I am astounded that, at only the beginning of our journey, the Ivy Scholars Program has been able to affect me in such a significant way. I look forward to whatever is in store and hope that I will be ready to grasp it fully.

Thanks for reading.

Matt Arciniega

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Impending Adventure

Before any of my words, I'd like to thank Mrs. Kronenberg for cordially beginning our blog. The banner looks great! :)

I'm truly blessed to have been chosen to participate in this program. From the sponsors, to the school board, to my very own peers--they have all provided us Ivy Leaguers with an overwhelming amount of support. Words cannot even begin to express my appreciation and gratitude. With the ongoing encouragement from these people, it is my firm belief that the Ivy League Connection will continue to grow and succeed at an exponential rate.

My experience at Yale is bound to be a life-changing one, and I'm happy to say I'll be sharing this experience with three outstanding scholars: Jessica Ong, Matt Arciniega, and Yohanna Pepa. I hope others will enjoy the adventure with us by following our blogs and pictures; I promise we'll bring the action to life!

With less than a month before our adventure begins, there's no doubt I've been devoting hours a day to reading the ten required books for the Yale Ivy Scholars Program. As of today, I've finished four of the books: Never Eat Alone, The Prince, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, & Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Below are short analyses of what I've read:

  • Never Eat Alone - This book, written by Keith Ferrazzi, explains how relationships are the foundations of success. Whether a loose acquaintance or a personal, close friend, all relationships benefit individuals in countless ways. Most of all, success emerges from helping others succeed. The era of self-sufficiency and individualism has concluded; by working in isolation, one is bound to fail. Indeed, I can think of one clear example of the necessity of relationships to success: the Ivy League Connection.
  • The Prince - Written by Machiavelli, The Prince strongly emphasizes the essentiality of balance in a prince's qualities. He must be loved yet feared, generous yet frugal. However, hatred must be avoided at all cost, for this only stations the possibility for revolt and conspiracy.
  • The Return of History and the End of Dreams - Robert Kagan analyzes the post-Cold War era, attacking the popular, optimistic belief that history has ended, that ideological conflicts have ceased, that cultural issues have been destroyed. Liberal democracy and capitalism has seemingly prevailed over communism, allowing "commerce... to lead toward peace." Kragen refutes any such claims, embodying the natural state of competition in humans and indicating the apparent re-emergence of autocracy and competition.
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - Wow. This book is great--descriptive, graphic, suspenseful, exciting, and many more adjectives. I am surprised by how much I like this book. Jack Weatherford chronicles the rise of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and its survival for over a century. The book begins with Genghis Khan's birth under the name Temujin--a boy rises as a military leader, and later, the ruler of an entire empire. Temujin begins a ruthless journey of conquest and destruction, taking over any city he encounters. He shows no mercy to those who refuse to surrender upon request. Weatherford embraces Genghis Khan's military creativity, which is responsible for Mongol unification as well as cultural success. Not only does Khan create an almost invincible, mobile army; he establishes an extremely integrated, culturally diverse society as well. Never failing to recognize advantageous talents in foreigners, Khan also spoils the Mongol Empire with fabrics, spices, and every merchandise then imagineable. Khubilai Khan, his grandson, proves to be the most knowledgeable of his descendants. Although lacking military prowess, Khubilai Khan shapes the Mongol Empire into a nonviolent, commercially successful state--a state on which the modern world is built, with printing, gunpowder, and other things. Before reading this book, I thought the Mongols were nothing but cruel and violent. Now, I admire Genghis Khan and Khubilai Khan for their leadership qualities and for their ability to unify their people through religious tolerance and trade.
Wow, that last bullet was quite lengthy; I tried to condense it as much as possible. My apologies!

I'm really excited and nervous for Yale University, one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States. I crave the new knowledge, new opportunities, and new friends that await me, and my thirst will remain unquenched until then.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My First Post! Yale, here we come!

Wow, I am actually not quite sure how to use this yet. (Thanks to Ms. Kronenberg for doing such a wonderful job on our site and for helping me with my first post!)
So, as of today, there are 35 days left before we leave for Yale! I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity and I cannot wait to learn more about leadership, Grand Strategy, and also more about myself. I am really glad to have already met the three other talented students from our district who are also going to Yale. In addition, I cannot wait to visit colleges before we arrive at Yale! We will be touring the campus of two great colleges in Connecticut: Wesleyan College and Connecticut College. What I admire the most is that though we will be very busy throughout the two weeks at Yale, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg still made sure that we had time to visit other colleges there. How great is that? In fact, Mr. Ramsey put a whole "itenerary" up for us, and we got to put in our opinions about specific arees we would like to visit. For example, at Wesleyan College, some have recommended us to visit the new Center for the Arts as well as the East Asian Studies Center, where they have their own Japanese Tea Room (according to Sue Kim, who as also been very helpful).

Being a part of the Ivy League Connection is very special, and I am thankful for all that Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Ms. O'Brian, Mr. Gosney, and everyone else who contributed have done for us students. The intense course at Yale will be memorable and I cannot wait to start blogging more about my experiences and what we are learning.
Though it is approximately still a month away, I can honestly say that I already feel the Yale spirit within me. Not only have we been able to meet Dr. Dr. Luong, who is in charge of this Ivy Scholars program, but we also had ANOTHER dinner where we met Yale Alums who shared their experiences there with us. Last but not least, the Yale program is always in my mind especially because of the pre-requisite books that we need to read! Here is a little information about what I have read so far:
  • Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This book is truly inspiring and discusses the fact that success is built upon relationships and the connections that we have. After reading this book first, I became more dedicated in showing the people at Yale how much potential our school district and students have. As I have mentioned to Mr. Ramsey before, the Ivy League Connection is helping us "connect" with other students from all around the world, and this book has informed me that guiding us towards connections will lead us to success. Hooray for ILC!
  • The Art of War: Sun Tzu. Translated by the Denma Translation Group. This second book discusses the idea that victory can be attained without fighting. With the correct mindset, as shown by the Sage Commander (the main "character"), one may be victorious. It was actually very surprising how I found relationships between these two books. The Sage Commander definitely showed the characteristics that Mr. Ferrazzi described in a successful person.
  • The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. This book is dedicated to and written for Lorenzo de Medici, the "future" prince of Italy. It was well written/translated, and provided some great opinions about how principalities are aquired and maintained, as well as how they are lost. Machiavelli also talks about how being feared is better than being loved. He definitely has a great political mind.
So far, these are the 3 books I have completed. There are approximately 7 more books to go, as well as some online sources that I need to read. As one can see, I feel like I am already in college, though Dr. Dr. Luong has mentioned that his courses he teaches there require much more reading in a week than we have to do this summer. (Crazy, indeed).
This is only the first of many blogs that I will put up; and I am looking forward to the next one that I do! (I think I'll put my expectations up next time and some more information about the other texts I [will] have completed). As for now, thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


This blog is for the West Contra Costa Unified School District students from the San Francisco Bay Area who will be participating in the Yale Ivy Scholars Program in Summer 2009 under the auspices of the District's Ivy League Connection Program.

Our four students will be attending Yale from July 25 to August 9 as participants in the Ivy Scholars Program. The following information, explaining the program, is taken from the Ivy Scholars website (

The Ivy Scholars Program is a college-level leadership development initiative for outstanding high school leaders sponsored by International Security Studies at Yale University and is an outreach program of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, ISS's strategic leadership education initiative dedicated to developing global leaders in government, business, and public service sector for the 21st century.

The Program is designed for exceptional high school student leaders, regardless of previous training in public speaking or debate, who aim to become senior leaders in their home countries whether they be future presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, corporate directors, public service or civic leaders. The goal of the Program is to study and apply the lessons of the world's greatest strategists and leaders spanning over 2,500 years to contemporary and future issues of the 21st century.

This Program is open to highly qualified rising juniors and seniors in high school (the two grades prior to entrance to university level study) and includes lectures by Yale faculty and distinguished scholars from other Ivy League universities, seminars on Grand Strategy, mentoring sessions with distinguished alumni and rising professionals, and intensive workshops dedicated to developing skills essential for leadership such as public speaking, specialized writing formats, networking, social and professional etiquette, study skills, time management and more.

The Ivy Scholars Program attracts the most talented high school leaders from across the United States and around the world. Our 2008 class included high school leaders from the United States, Canada, European Union, Asia, and Southeast Asia.