A group of students gathered in the Reynolds Club at noon on Thursday to listen to Abra Pollock talk about her life philosophy. Pollock, a fourth-year in the College, spoke for the series, "What Matters to Me and Why," in which students and faculty touch on their guiding principles.
Consistent throughout Pollock's talk was her passion for human rights. She is active in the Human Rights Program and is an International Studies. Pollock mentioned that she will soon begin teaching a human rights course at a South Side Chicago high school.
She touched on moral consistency, which she defined as "the notion of having a really strong sense of justice and applying that to any situation," as one of her definitive values. Pollock believes that every human should have "an instinct" of morality, regardless of partisan loyalty.
Surrounded by a small and intimate group of mostly friends, Pollock's tone was relaxed. She drew laughs when she pointed to her gold shoes and said, "First of all I want to be remembered for being glamorous. But I also want to be remembered for having character. Character is how you act when no one's looking." Pollock said she strives for this trait in herself, and seeks it in others.
Pollock emphasized that she tries to accept other people's religions rather than passing judgments: "I try to respect people right off the bat." She realizes that no one religion is superior and is frustrated when people impose their ideas on others. "As a Jew, I'm repelled by the idea of proselytization," she said.
Finding her religious identity was not an easy task for Pollock, who went through periods of frustrated questioning. One particularly hard experience occurred at a movie theater on Christmas Eve. She resented the fact that she was at a movie theater while Christians were celebrating a holiday.
But soon after that night, when Pollock attended a Jewish youth event, her opinion changed. Pollock was in a situation where she felt much more comfortable. "I've never seen so many people with curly hair in the same room," she admitted. This led Pollock to embrace her own religious heritage. "I'm Jewish, and my family's Jewish; this must be right for me."
Clearly a driven individual, as one of her friends noted, Pollock has ambitions to go into international development and conflict management. Whether or not Pollock stays in the U.S., she hopes to maintain her sense of equality and democracy. "I value my Americanness," Pollock said. "The norm here is freedom."
Pollock hopes to live a life filled with challenges. "For me it's about going outside my comfort zone and testing limits," she said. "The greater the risk that you take, the greater the benefit."
At the same time, however, she stressed that "it's important to have friends and it's important to have fun." Pollock believes that she can be dedicated to noble causes but still pay attention to her own needs. "I would like to have a somewhat normal life after graduation," she responded, when asked about future plans.
Talks in this series occur in the third and seventh weeks of each quarter. Future speakers include Jene Bethke Elshtain, Charles Lipson, and Dean Boyer.