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.


  • and in addition…

    Minh Tran's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

    Minh Tran does not sleep. He waits.

    When Minh Tran jumps in a lake, he doesn't get wet; the water gets MINH TRAN.

    Oh, sorry, did I take the tone of this hero-worship piece a bit too far? (Minh Tran doesn't get overworked; overwork gets MINH TRAN'd!)

  • Undecided voter

    Sad to see this come from a freshman. I'm sure he means everything he says, but I'd like to hear from someone like the teacher who spoke at Minh's announcement. Every one of Minh's friends is willing to vouch for him; let's hear it from someone else.

  • Anonymous

    if minh is so committed to living in ward 1 next semester, why hasn't he secured housing? he needs to put his money where his mouth is on this one.

  • good point in addition

    Would the real Minh Tran please stand up? Because then he would prove that he actually doesn't stand up; rather, he pushes the earth down.

    It is absurd that this editorial's primary answer for how Minh Tran plans to devote enough time to both Teach for America and the Adermanic Board is solely based upon Minh's energy, drive, and passion. As confident as I am of Minh's "legendary" prowess, I feel that the very nature of devoting your time to Teach for America, which requires a weekly commitment of 65+ hours will detract from anyone; yes, even Minh Tran. If he does do both, he will have to shortchange one for the other; were he to devote more time to the Aldermanic Board, he would be neglecting the inner city children that he had originally pledged to help. If he does his JOB and fulfills the commitment that he has already pledged, then he will not be serving the community to which he has newly pledged his time and efforts.

    I like the fact that you highlighted how much the real Minh Tran was being lost, simply because people seem to be making personal attacks. No one is making personal attacks at Minh Tran, people are simply saying echoing the logical statement that the fewer other commitments that you have, the better you can focus on the city. In your rush to criticize the personal attacks against Minh, you have instead gone the other way and solely sought to bolster Minh's personal image. Well, just as personal attacks don't take into account Minh's prowess, personal anecdotes of character don't address the question of how he logistically could argue that he will be able to devote enough time to both.

  • Observer

    As an alum with no stake in this race, I found it interesting to observe some trends in terms of the kinds of students who support the various candidates for Alderman. In particular, it's interesting how Yalies who were deeply involved in New Haven or Yale community affairs almost unanimously support Tran, while more apolitical types who don't particularly care about New Haven politics strongly support Jones because they see him as a cool, laid-back guy to hang out with.

  • Anonymous

    in response to number 3, the article said he HAS secured housing in Ward 1.

  • y11

    many aldermen work more than 65 hours per week at their regular jobs. there's no reason minh couldn't as well. it just requires a bit of personal sacrifice and hard work. being a good alderman is hard work no matter who you are.

    i would like to see the candidtates be more specific about their plans for safe streets though, it seems like the city has no funding to put in segregated bike lanes like NYC or better crosswalks .

  • in response to number 5

    That is simply not the case. Jones has been endorsed by New Haven Action, a group of Yalies dedicated to working on community issues. He also has the support of many in the Yale College Democrats, who are very active in city and state politics.

    And I am usually hesitant to be overly PC and cry "racism" when none may exist, but your assertion that people are only voting for Mike because he is a "cool, laid-back guy" is ridiculous. You seem to assume that because Mike is a good guy who is active in Yale life with a lot of friends, he can't possibly have knowledge of New Haven issues. You are wrong. And maybe you don't mean it this way, but to me, by using the terms "cool" and "laid-back," you undermine the substance of Mike's campaign (which is considerable) and instead attribute his success to qualities that are stereotypically associated with African-Americans. Maybe your comment isn't racist, but it's certainly woefully uninformed.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I have to be honest and say that the downright mean-spirited responses of some of these commenters are making the opponents of Minh Tran look kinda bad. It turns my stomach a little to hear their attacks of what seems like a perfectly sincere op-ed. I think the vehemence also strikes me a bit odd since I can't really envision any undecided voter reacting to this kind of op-ed article so meanly, but who knows. I really hope Mike Jones and/or Katie Harrison aren't running smear campaigns.

  • what?

    at #5.

    That is not true. People deepy involved in New Haven communities almost unanimously support Harrison. Yale communities are more Minhs thing.

  • Me

    In response to #5, you're an idiot.

  • Me

    In response to #5, you are completely wrong. That is not true in the least. Come back and see.

  • @ all the #5 haters

    Don't blame the alum who hasn't been around, credit the candidates' media strategies and image campaigns.

  • Anonymous

    As an apolitical person who doesn't particularly care about New Haven politics, you're very wrong, #5: I actually don't care about this election in the least, and therefore don't support *any* candidate.

    I would totally have a beer with Mike Jones though.

  • Y09

    To those campaign operatives who spend all their free time commenting on these articles: one of the rules of politics is to ignore the secondary sources and become your own source for information in controlling your message. Sniping in the little-read YDN online comments section is like preaching to the choir. Please, resist the temptation to comment. Rise above it.

    They don't it this way in the real world, and the last time I checked, the Board of Aldermen was in the real world.

  • @@

    Mike Jones is in the race to satisfy his ego; Harrison and Tran are in it cause they actually care.

    Unfortunately Mike seems to be the most popular; much of--if not most of--the student body is not politically active within New Haven and since Mike is the best "politician/" is the most social, he'll probably get it. I was talking to someone in Branford and they said, "I don't really care who wins. Every time I hear Minh of Katie talk I just want to shut them up. I'm voting for Mike. I really don't care." Sadly, this seems like the majority.

  • Anonymous

    #16 you are right.

    Minh and Katie are sincere. Please, those of you who can vote, vote for one of them.

  • Anonymous

    I am also worried about the rudeness of what seems to be Mike Jones supporters on these comment boards. It's scary and I hope people realize what kind of supporters he has.