Voices from SD Orientation: Tommy Tokunaga

tokunagaHi, my name is Tommy Tokunaga. I’m going into my junior year of high school and I’d like to share a few thoughts on my own ATDP experience.

My ATDP experience has been a varied and lengthy voyage. I started way back in kindergarten with the Oviparous Animals course in the Elementary Division where I learned about various egg-born animals; and within the Secondary Division, have been given the opportunity to learn from some great teachers in their respective courses. I have taken a writing course, a chemistry course, a public speaking course (getting to use it right here), and the AP Economics course. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful teachers and students during my summers with ATDP. Thinking back on my recent ATDP summers, this Berkeley campus and its broader environment have provided many memorable experiences.

But first off, for those of you who are not from Berkeley, or from anywhere near the Bay Area, hello and welcome; and second of all, I really encourage you to take in as much as you can of the UC Berkeley setting. As you probably know, this university has an outstanding reputation in many different disciplines, and attracts bright students, like yourselves, from around the world. You will certainly become familiar with small facets of this campus in getting to and from your classes, but while you’re here, give yourself a little more time to explore this beautiful campus and look into its unique history. The many faculty and alumni Nobel laureates, and the student-lead Free Speech and anti-war movements are just a few indicators of Cal’s impact.

I remember last summer at the end my economics course, the lessons were more oriented toward the bigger picture of economics. We learned how economics, the federal government, and international trade are interrelated. Learning how economic development, wealth generation, and distribution happen was eye opening for me. That ATDP course helped prepare me for further studies of economics during my sophomore year, and I gained a better understanding on the part that money has in our nation’s politics, and the economic challenges faced by the 99%.

Tying this back to ATDP, UC Berkeley, economics, and our immediate environment, I’m reminded of the movie Inequality for All which was brought to my attention from the subject of last summer’s ATDP course, starring the former U.S. Labor Department Secretary and now UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich. This documentary describes the relatively recent rise of income inequality in the U.S., and advocates the need for change in our government and regulation of the financial system. My economics classes and that documentary have helped me understand the widespread discontent throughout our nation, as well as the Occupy movement in Berkeley and elsewhere, and the influences of economics everywhere. Courses like Economics and many others at ATDP classes have the profound ability to alter the way we experience our world.

While the world is too vast to take in, the direct environment we navigate in getting to ATDP classes is much more manageable. The UC Berkeley campus is like none other in the way it is so interlaced with the surroundings and the often times very weird City of Berkeley. This campus is so much a part of the city that the culture of Berkeley is a blend of both atmospheres. The hippie chic, abundance of thrift shops, record stores, Telegraph Avenue, and Grateful Dead fans are all a part of the counterculture often associated with Berkeley. However, the social impact of the University and City of Berkeley go much further than psychedelia and the occasional riots, through promotion of civil rights, and recognition of the diversity of ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation, and political persuasions. Yes, the Republicans have a place here too while clearly a minority. In summary, there is a lot to learn here both in and outside the classroom. With your limited time in ATDP this summer, I encourage you to be adventurous and open to learn new things. Be curious and approach the city the way you approach your ATDP course, with an open mind.

If we all can bring an open mind into each of our respective classes, we may also be able to find a greater significance in our surroundings, the university, and the city of Berkeley. Thank you and ATDP for many fantastic summers; and I wish you all a great summer!