Brigham Young University student Sione Funaki won a new iPad for participating in the KennedyLive Blogging Competition conducted by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies during fall semester.
As part of a New York Times educational partnership, the Kennedy Center works with the Times to encourage students to read the paper and expand their knowledge of current events. During fall and winter semesters, students may pick up free copies of the New York Times at the Kennedy Center. Interested students are invited to read the paper and blog (kennedylive.wordpress.com) their personal views on topics covered in the paper. The most consistent and insightful blogger is awarded the winning iPad.
Funaki posted updates on his opinions and questions on current political situations such as the role of ISIS in the Middle East and the right to freedom of speech on an international scale.
In one post, he shared his thoughts on freedom of speech and religion in Malaysia after the country restricted the use of certain names of deity: "The Muslim country of Malaysia has banned the use of the word 'Allah' or God by Christian minorities. So who owns a word, or better yet who has the right to tell people what words they can and cannot use in worship? Does this not infringe on their freedom of religion, which, by the way, Malaysia practices and is an article in their laws and constitution?"
Motivated solely by the prize, Funaki wasn't too invested in the project at first. He said, "I took it as a task and a chore to be completed on my long list of homework and busy work to do for the day." But soon he found his interest growing. "As I began to read the New York Times more thoughtfully and with more intent to learn and know what is going on out there, I began to enjoy the entire blogging experience."
Funaki saw the competition as a way to develop a position on and to engage with other opinions on political issues. He said the Kennedy Live blog was "an opportunity to not only express your views but to see through an open forum the views and opinions of others that may or may not challenge your own personal beliefs. Having an opinion about issues is one thing," said Funaki, "articulating them into some sort of cohesive argument or statement is different and important to know how to do."
Students from any major are invited to participate in the ongoing competition for the opportunity to win an iPad of their own this semester. Participating students should visit the David M. Kennedy Center daily to pick up the New York Times and contribute to the blogs by posting via Facebook (David M. Kennedy Center) or Twitter (#kennedylive).