Several times a year, the Upper School invites alums to speak at assembly about what they are doing currently and how their Waynflete experience relates. The purpose of this speaker series is not only to inform our students of some of what our graduates are doing in the world but also to help them to see some of the various ways that their Waynflete experience can play out in their future lives.
The most recent speaker was Jonny Asen ’05. Jonny began his talk by reading a progress report from a teacher who expressed gratitude that the baseball season had finally ended, which he hoped would allow Jonny to shift his attention from his beloved New York Yankees back to the math problems at hand. Jonny went on to recount his somewhat serendipitous journey from being a Waynflete “Lifer” to Trinity College, five years in the White House, and back to Maine where he lives in Portland with his wife Annie Reiner ’05 and works in Augusta as a senior advisor to Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves.
I asked two USNOW staffers to reflect on Jonny’s talk. Here is what they had to say.
Christian Brooks ’18:
After listening to Jonathan Asen speak at assembly, I began to understand his story of success. After spending 14 years at Waynflete School, Jonathan said he was ready to move on and get out into the real world. Looking at his young career, one could say that Jonathan has already been very successful, not only working in the White House, but also obtaining a very important position as the Senior Advisor to Maine House Speaker Mark Eves.
Something I really grasped from what Jonathan told us was how luck and good fortune presented him with great opportunities for his career. That being said, Jonathan also expressed how important it is to take these opportunities when they arise, especially those that take you out of your comfort zone. After working as an intern for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, Jonathan was invited to work for the presidential campaign in the fall of 2008. However, he reached a crossroads. Should he move to D.C. or finish his college education? Finishing school was the final decision for him.
Although he didn’t get the internship he had wished for right after college, Jonathan continued to search for more opportunities and ultimately did become an intern at the White House mail room. Many people in this position would be eager to move on quickly and continue their careers, yet Jonathan was able to appreciate the situation, and his experience reading the letters that were sent to the White House continues to impact him today. Even after being offered a position with a labor union, Jonathan decided to continue his internship. As Jonathan had humbly stated previously, luck plays a huge part in anyone’s success. Through a good friendship made with a fellow intern in the mail room, Jonathan was eventually offered a higher job within the White House.
Looking back, Jonathan recognized that his Waynflete education gave him a good foundation and helped him in both his life and career. Looking ahead at my own future, I am grateful that I was able to hear Jonathan’s story, but more importantly, hear the main ideas that he believes helped him to become successful. It is important to take the opportunities that present themselves to you, even if you are unsure of the outcome, for you never know what could become something valuable for yourself. As of right now, I am interested in many different fields and possible careers that I could pursue, however I haven’t found a true passion yet. Taking Jonathan’s advice, I will continue to be open to new experiences and opportunities. Perhaps with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, an opportunity seized could even develop into a successful career.
Shuhao Liu ’18:
Jonathan shared his experience growing up in the Waynflete community and working as an official at the White House. From his story, I learned that he was not sure about his career at first. He said in his high school years, he was not overly involved in politics. But this did not get in the way for him to find out later on that he really wants to be a politician. After 14 years at Waynflete, Jonathan was fully prepared to step out of his familiar neighborhood and discover himself.
I think this is a very significant thing that his years at Waynflete have brought to him. As a teenager, I often found myself confused about my future career. Now I realize that the most important thing for me is not to have a clear path to the future, but rather to build a heart full of passion for the unknown challenges in the future. A high school education should give a student a good sense of all the aspects of life. At the same time, it should help the student to build a mind that is always eager to learn and explore. If a student is prepared as such, like Jonathan, it is okay for him to be unsure about what he is going to do in the future. As long as he has the desire to learn, he will not be afraid of the unknown and will always keep going forth. This spirit can lead him to discover more and more about himself and eventually to find out who he really wants to become.
So now I know that the most important thing right now is to have the passion to try new things. By doing this, I will not only gain a better understanding of all the different career paths open to me, but I will also gain confidence that will help me to discover myself in the future. In my first year at Waynflete, the School is already providing me many opportunities to learn about myself. I am preparing for the school’s play and working on a robotics team project at the same time. I feel fortunate that Jonathan Asen shared his experience with us. That helped me to change the way I look at my time at Waynflete and the future.