Michael McWhorter is a 19 year student at the FIU Honors College currently pursuing a Biomedical Engineering Major. With his major he hopes to design and build technology that will facilitate the lives of those born with mental and physical disabilities, and provide them with an even playing field in life. He has a deep passion for soccer and most other sports, but he also enjoys learning about the geopolitical history of the world, and being entrepreneurial with his friends.
Encounter as Text
“Reflection Before the Journey” by Michael McWhorter – FIU, Miami – 01/26/2023
To be frank, I never believed that I was going to go through with this program and officially be travelling to Italy this summer. Even at the first meeting I though that I was eventually going to drop out of the class and find another way to get the Honor’s College credits that I needed for the semester. As it turns out though, with every passing week I am growing more grateful of this opportunity that I have and I am going to take full advantage of it. I’m now officially full of anticipation for the summer and I can’t wait to revisit Italia with less personal restrictions on what I can do, and with the teachings of the program professor John Bailey. I am extremely motivated to learn everything I can about the country, the art, the culture, and about the different historical eras that have shaped Europe and the world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Italia more than most, having been there four times over the course of my life. Three of those times were strictly for pleasure, having gone with my family and having visited Milano, Roma, Venezia, and Firenze multiple times, while each on each trip developing a new perspective due to me being older and more experienced human at the time. One does not get used to seeing buildings like St. Peter’s Basilica or having Da Vinci’s Last Supper right in front of you. Some would say more importantly, you don’t get used to watching an Internazionale match and witnessing the team talisman Mauro Icardi grab a goal in front of the Curva Nord. These incredible one of kind experiences are unique to Italy, and it will always play a role in my life. The third time I went, which to me technically counts as pleasure, was to train with the Venezia F.C academy a few years back. Soccer has always been my number one passion and I have an infinite amount of love for the sport. To put it simply, missing this chance to train with Italian players and coaches, was not an option. I was able to stay on the island of Lido near Venezia, as that’s where the academy is situated and I lived some unforgettable moments there. Not to mention, while I was staying there my family was provided a guide who had grown up in Venezia that showed us all the backstreets and non-tourist destinations of the city, where the real beauty can be found. When you factor in my love for geopolitical history, Renaissance artforms, and calcio… Italia appears to be a fantasy.
I have very high expectations for this program. I am looking forward to absorbing copious amounts of historical information and to walking through incredible towns and structures that could not be described using words. If I have to pick a location that I am most excited for though, it would have to be Cinque Terre. The idea of staying inside an actual catholic monastery combined with not having ever seen the town before, is making me anticipate an unbelievable experience.
Ancient Rome as Text
“Origins” by Michael McWhorter – FIU, Miami – 02/05/23
When one stops to think, there’s not really a whole lot that is uniquely original to “American” culture. In fact, there are probably arguments against the notion of America even having a culture, due to the constant immigration of humans from every other country into the United States. As a result of the population and immigration boom specifically in the United States over many years, the cultures of all different parts of the world have merged together and they definitely cannot be contained by abstract concepts like local or state boundaries. If a historian had to give an answer about the origins of American culture and structure though, the answer would most likely be the Ancient Roman civilization.
Ancient Rome was by no means a perfect society, but it cannot be denied that it laid so many of the foundations for modern civilizations that exist today. So many Roman concepts and structures, both physical and social, play a fundamental role in almost all of facets of American government and social systems. There are too many examples to name them all, but two of the most notable to me are the establishment of a senate to keep an authoritative figure in check and the staple architectural design of buildings that serve a purpose in the field of government.
Having a group of officials that represent the emotions of the common people is something has proven to be absolutely critical in the modern American system of politics. This Roman creation paved the way for the modern Senate, House of Representatives, and by extension the other branches of government that make up the checks and balances system that functions today. I believe that it was more meaningful to have a senator from your part of town back in Ancient Rome than it is today to have an official that represents your county in the government. The Senators of ancient Rome were encouraged to gather in the center of their part of the neighborhood to speak their mind to the people they represent, and they also needed to set aside time of the week to hear the complaints and requests of their countrymen. That’s something that I think could do some good today, but I am sure there are logistical issues about it, and it probably wouldn’t change the agendas of modern-day politicians.
Unlike perhaps the government officials having a more personable and familiar role when it comes to connecting with members of their district, there are some other ways of life in Ancient Rome that I find myself completely rejecting and disapproving of. I’m sure that I’m not alone in believing that the concept of slavery is utterly devastating and horrible in every single sense. The slave trade was a huge part of the Roman economy and it would completely destroy the lives of any poor soul that would be unlucky enough to cross paths with a greedy or abusive Roman with no sense of morality towards them. This of course is not unique to Ancient Rome, as pretty much every advanced society maintained and profited off of slavery up until about 100 years ago.
In fact, Rome was very advanced in terms of the place of women in their society. Women were allowed to own property and conduct business within the city, and they were allowed enough rights to be autonomous if need be. Of course, they were still horribly treated and frequently abused by their husbands and other men, and this is unacceptable.
Despite it’s many flaws, Ancient Rome is undeniably the largest influence of not only American social systems but most other modern systems of government for the current most advanced societies on the globe.