By David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
Jonathan Carden and Paul Devamithran, PHC's new 2010-2011 student body president and vice president
Too sick to go to class yet having anxiously waited weeks to hear back about his application for the prestigious internship, Carden had no intention of letting the opportunity slip away. With wastebasket strategically perched nearby, he began drafting the press release and, with fifteen minutes to spare, e-mailed it back.
“I told her I had to send it in early, because if I waited I might be locked in the bathroom,” Carden noted with a chuckle. The following Monday, as Carden competed in a round of mock trial, the director called him back with hearty congratulations. Flu and all, Carden been chosen from a final field of Ivy Leaguers for the prestigious Chamber summer internship with an attractive hourly stipend.
“I couldn’t’ believe it,” Carden recalls, still mystified. “It was the sickest I’d been at PHC, but it turned out to be a great day. I learned the following day that I’d been elected student body president.” Pausing to ponder these improbable events, he shook his head and added: “My summer break suddenly became a lot more interesting.”
One of Carden and Devamithran's campaign posters
That Carden is on an impressive roll heading into his senior year is, perhaps, the fruit of three years of hard-earned experience, some serious academic and financial challenges, personal setbacks, and the undeniable deepening of his faith.
“The number one thing I’ve learned from all of this is that none of this is because of how smart I am, or how competent,” he says. “It’s because of God’s grace and provision for me, the evidence of which I’ve seen time after time.”
In addition to the U.S. Chamber internship and election victory, he was chosen as one of ten PHC dorm RAs (Resident Assistants) for the College’s 2010-11 Residence Life team. The designation is for Carden an honor equal to any of the others.
“I consider being named an RA a huge privilege and responsibility that will weave me even more deeply into the fabric of the campus,” he said.
Sandra Corbitt, PHC’s Dean of Students, said, “Jon is a charismatic leader of good reputation who is widely liked and respected on campus. He is reliable and, I think, he’ll do well as president of the student body, because he has lots of good ideas and is a ‘can do’ kind of guy.”
As editor of PHC’s student magazine, Source, Carden has for the past semester effectively wielded his witty, tongue-in-cheek writing style with natural editing and leadership qualities, says Dr. Les Sillars, director of the College’s journalism department.
“He’s a fine organizer who worked well with his staff,” Sillars observed, “and his sharp sense of humor provided some of the best headlines I’ve seen in a student publication. I’m very impressed with how he’s matured in the last year. His essay in a recent Source about the need for humility on campus, despite our students’ many achievements, was one of the best all year.”
In that piece, entitled Salt and Light, Carden exhorted his fellow high-achievers with humor: “Maybe we have taken the instruction to be ‘salt and light’ to actually mean ‘take over the world by throwing salt in the world’s eyes before hitting it over the head with a big flashlight.’” And with sober-minded realism: “When we enter the ‘real world,’ it will be our cumulative character rather than a cumulative GPA that defines us.”
Reflecting back on the events of recent days, Carden still seemed somewhat overwhelmed by it all. And yet, he still had one more, semester-ending challenge to face, a final exam Tuesday afternoon in Freedom’s Foundations, PHC’s core political theory primer. Emerging later that day with a weary smile, Carden radiated quiet relief.
“I think it went pretty well. I did a study guide last night and, surprisingly, the test covered most of it.” He sighed, allowing himself a quick, celebratory grin. “Sometimes it works out like that, sometimes it doesn’t.” He turned toward the Founder’s Hall entrance, looking back only to say, “Now I’m headed back to my room, where I plan to sleep for two weeks.”