For my Art of Rhetoric’s third action project, I had to write up an example of a college essay. Since I haven’t decided on a college yet, I chose a prompt from the Common App. I think that the reason my teacher assigned this as the project as action is because while its’ main purpose is to practice writing college essays, it’s also a great way to work on being able to write about oneself. I am extremely proud and happy with my essay mostly because of what the prompt enabled me to write about. I got to write about how my favorite literary character has influenced me and in doing so further deepened my closeness to him. I learned that even though it is important, writing about yourself is extremely hard even when you have a conduit that makes it comparatively easier to writing without one. This was especially apparent when during a workshop on a rough draft of our essays, my peers noted that mine read very similar to a book report in the sense that it spoke more of my character than of myself. It was hard to take since I had originally thought my essay a masterpiece. Take it I did though, and here below stands the finalized version that will without a doubt, take your breath away.


Common App Essay

Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

(approximately 250-500 words)

Ed Kennedy’s life is, in essence, the definition of normality. So then why was he chosen to undertake the seemingly impossible task of changing people’s lives for the better? “I am The Messenger” by Markus Zusak tells the story of Ed, whose life of a simple cab driver is altered drastically when for unknown reasons, he starts to receive playing cards in the mail. Each card points him in the direction of a random person who is having problems in life. His task to help solve the problems is non-negotiable; if Ed refuses to deliver one of these messages, he will be killed. The author shows that with enough motivation, even a 19 year old deadbeat cab driver in a dingy old town can do more than live his ordinary life. He can morph hopeless situations into ones full of happiness and joy.

Although Ed was forced to deliver these messages, I admire that he took on the tasks with conviction. Everybody has bad days at school, work, and/or at home. I have found that the easiest way to lift my spirits is to help somebody else out. Whether it is giving advice, helping peers with homework, or getting people out of their own funk through humor and wit, all of these acts brighten my day even if only temporarily. Ed Kennedy expressed similar feelings of joy and pleasure by making connections to people he had never known before.

The way Ed Kennedy questions the meaning of life when he asks, “why me”, as he does a number of times, resonates with me. I have often questioned my purpose in life. Reading about Ed’s experience and the ways in which he rises to meet his challenges has helped me when I have felt hopeless to make a difference and to find purpose.  I realized, when reading about Ed that he was transformed in the process of helping others. When I volunteer at the food pantry or when I can afford to give money to a homeless person, I find my perspective on life changes.

When Ed started out by following the instructions of the cards, he did not know where they would lead, yet he completed them anyway. When I feel gloomy and confused about life, I try to remember that you don’t always have to know where things will end up, but that each step you take along the way can help you get to a better place, even without a map that guides you there.

Ed saw firsthand the unfairness of this world and did not let it stop him. By the end of the book, Ed discovered that in addition to the good feelings he had gained from helping others, he was also stronger and could make positive changes in his own life. His story gives me hope and reassurance and motivates me to continue to reach out and help people without needing them to first express their own need for support.