It seems that lately alot of good things have been happening to bad people. Corrupt politicians get to stay in office; failed businessmen get bonuses; loud, self-important media personalities get million-dollar book deals; warlords get paid off. And the good person – hardworking, humble, kind, honest – finishes second, just a step behind everyone else.

However, the recent successes of two friends challenge this reality and give me hope.

Tom Lee, a 2006 Northwestern graduate, got a big break last month when his photos for a story on the tuna fishing industry were used on the cover of the November 9 TIME Magazine. I met Tom while working on the Global Engagement Summit in 2005. Tom took photos for the Summit and was instrumental in the creation of the OpenShutter project – an annual student art project that seeks to challenge the stereotypical narratives we use to talk about ‘other’ people and places. I always cherished the time I spent with Tom. He exuded a combination of raw talent and down-to-Earth manor that I had never quite encountered before. You never hear Tom talk about his many awards or accomplishments. His interest is in listening and learning from whoever he’s with. He can talk to an amateur photographer – or someone like me with virtually no artistic sensibilities – and get genuinely excited about the incites they have to share about the topic of photography. In so doing, he makes you feel legitimate and equal. Tom is that kind of good person that you want to succeed, not just because he’s your friend, but because it gives you a sense that there is some justice in the world.

Matthew Baum is someone I’m just recently getting to know, but who invokes the same sort of sentiments in me that Tom does. Matt is a current Mitchell Scholar with Lauren that studied mollecular and cellular biology at Yale and initiated research that led to an important discovery in the field of Fragile X syndrome and the transformation of short-term memories into long-term memories. In his spare time he is a published artist and was captain of Yale’s wrestling team. But, meeting Matt, you would never know these things about him. He carries himself with a humility and humor that makes you feel welcomed, not threatened…no matter who you are or where you’re from. Last week Matt was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. In all its preoccupation with status and the self-promotional, its heartening to know that the Rhodes felt attracted to someone like Matt.

If people like Matt and Tom are allowed to hold positions of leadership in the world over the next several decades, there is reason to hope.

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