Beckett: The real Minh

The greatest tragedy in an election is not when a candidate loses. It is when the truth about him is lost.

Recently, the News has criticized Minh Tran ’09, one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for Ward 1 alderman. An editorial published Wednesday (“News’ View: How voters should weigh visibility,” April 1) questioned whether Minh can fulfill his promise of being a highly visible alderman while working for Teach for America, possibly outside New Haven.

The insinuations by the News and the attacks from commenters on the News’ Web site are not only misinformed; they are absurd to anyone who knows Minh.

Despite doubts, Minh will be an integral part of the New Haven community next year. He will live in New Haven regardless of where he is placed by Teach for America, or whether he wins the aldermanic election. In fact, this week, Minh secured housing in Ward 1. This has been his plan since well before the election.

The challenge of balancing a job with Teach for America — even in another city — and a position on the Board of Aldermen is a concern only for those who know nothing about Minh’s legendary energy, passion and work ethic. The News called the Teach for America job “one of the most notoriously difficult and time-consuming jobs for young Americans anywhere.” But Minh, who has worked in seven schools over the last four years, has been training for this job his whole Yale career. And those who know him know that his responsibilities this year already rival the commitments he may have next year.

The accusation that Minh will be unable to handle everything next year has led some to, more disturbingly, question his character. In the rhetoric of the campaign, the real Minh Tran is being lost.

It is sadly ironic that his decision to work with Teach for America is now being seized upon as an obstacle to his candidacy, when it only exemplifies his commitment to the community and his desire to work on behalf of others.

Minh has given himself, over and over again, to our city. Since his freshman year, he has thrown himself into the work of transforming New Haven. He has spent part of each summer of his Yale career (a total of six months outside the school year) in New Haven, teaching and trying to help New Haven deal with its various problems. Now he will stay in New Haven for two more years, not yet ready to leave behind the city to which he has given so much. It would be difficult to find another senior at Yale who has spent as much time in our city or shown as much passion for it.

Tragically, Minh’s extraordinary dedication has been turned into talking points and simple slogans like “experience.” What is lost is his deep, real commitment to helping others, a commitment he renews every day. I see this in Durfee, where Minh serves as an extraordinary freshman counselor; but he does not reserve this kindness for only his college, or even just for fellow students.

Regardless of the outcome of the aldermanic race, Minh will continue to transform the lives of his friends and students. The saddest thing would not be Minh losing this race. It would be if his unmatched commitment, his drive to help and change and transform, continued to be ignored by the News and disparaged by its online commenters. Minh will change the world with or without an aldermanic seat. But it is deeply disheartening to see a person so fervently selfless doubted and attacked. I want those who attack Minh to deal with reality, not rumor.

The real Minh hasn’t yet been seen in the public discussion of the campaign. The real Minh is the guy who stayed up until 5 a.m. on Saturday night taking a freshman with a head wound to Yale University Health Services and still woke up at 9 a.m.; who spends afternoons at Riverside Psychiatric Hospital with children too disturbed for a juvenile delinquent center; who gives everything to his friends, to his work and to his students, day after day, leaving nothing for himself.

This is the real Minh. It would be shame if he were seen as anything less.

Sean Beckett is a freshman in Morse College.

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