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Challenge Your Thoughts and Open Your Mind

by Aj Melillo

On a cool day in the winter of 2016, I arrived at Montclair State University with my anxiety at an all-time high. That being said, I am not really an anxious person, but that day was an exception. I was interviewing to get into the School of Communication and Media, and in my mind, my future was riding on this interview.

When I arrived at Morehead Hall, I went into a room that was full of potential Montclair State students, and we were presented with some speakers who were trying to quell our nerves and give us some pointers for during our interviews. Then we were assigned a brief writing assignment and asked to wait until our name was called.

After about two hours of waiting, seeing the whole room come and go, I was finally called in for an interview. I was ushered to Professor Mark Effron’s office, thus beginning what would be the most defining moment of my collegiate life thus far.
When I entered Effron’s office, I shook his hand and tried to hide my obvious nerves, but I am sure I did not do very well in that regard. Effron then said to me what has shaped my mission for the time that I am at this university.

He told me that he read my essays, and from what I wrote, he could tell that I was a conservative. He then reminded me that I was applying to be in a heavily liberal major, at a heavily liberal college, in a heavily liberal town, in a liberal state. He wanted me to know just what I was getting into when applying to Montclair State. I assured him that I knew what I was getting into and that I thought every college would have a liberal bias and to surround myself with those ideas would only make me a stronger person, both morally and intellectually.

He agreed with what I had said, and then he gave me a proposition.

“AJ, I like what you wrote in your essays and said today and I may not agree with you, but I like you,” Effron said.

Effron said he needed me here, at Montclair State, to represent other viewpoints.

“We need you to show people that there is another way to look at the world,” Effron said. “I want you to promise me that if you go here, you will get your message out there.”


The sunset over the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University on a Thursday afternoon.
Chanila German | The Montclarion

I agreed to this promise and as soon as I stepped foot on campus, my journey of keeping my word began. Today, two weeks into my sophomore year, I am an assistant opinion editor at The Montclarion, where I often write opposite the opinions of many of my colleagues on national events. I co-host the Sons of Liberty radio show and podcast with my counterpart Stephen Rumbolo for WMSC Radio, where I am also the assistant news director. I have interviewed six congressional candidates and a few radio personalities. I was even awarded the Bill Puskas Most Promising New Student Award last semester.

I am not saying this to toot my own horn, but I am saying this to prove a point: speak your mind and do not be afraid to share your opinion.

In a world that is so consumed by the politically correct culture, many people are scared to speak out and say how they feel. My message to you is do not be afraid. Do not be rude or pushy to people, and speak clearly your thoughts. Open your ears more than you open your mouth and learn something. Do not be afraid to be contradicted and do not be scared to contradict someone else.

We are in college. This is the time and place to hear new ideas and perspectives. We are at the perfect point in our lives to be open-minded and listen to everyone. The only way to know how valid your thoughts are is if you challenge yourself with new ideas.

Go out and have a conversation with someone that disagrees with you. Get out of your comfort zone and stay clear of confirmation bias, challenge yourself and others. My experience has taught me that sometimes it pays off to think a little bit differently from everyone else, so do not be scared to show those different ideas. Everyone has unique stories with original perspectives and personal thoughts.

Express your ideas, challenge your thoughts and open your mind.


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