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zandd.com: In college you are bound to meet some interesting characters and people who really stand out in your mind. And so of course in my own college, there are more than a few of these people, both students and town members. Two in particular tend to stand out in my mind. They both are people who speak their minds freely and in doing so, are thought of as weird, annoying, and an oddity.

Take for example this one man. He is called the Willard Preacher, named accordingly after the building that he "preaches" in front of, day after day almost without fail. He covers topics such as religion, abortion, governmental affairs, and current events. All his topics are controversial in nature and will always cause a rise out of some college student bumming around between classes. People in fact try to make it a point to sit by the Willard building just so that they can get a shot at the Willard Preacher. What is so interesting to me about him is the carefree regard with which he preaches. Many of his topics are not politically correct and even border on offensive. He certainly can provoke a crowd.

Another character to me is a girl in one of my classes. She, also without fail, will ask the professor question after question, and inadvertently take on the role of the devil's advocate. She will always give her opinion and if there is something on her mind, she is not hesitant to let it out. To me, she seems to have no fear of sounding ridiculous and she is a person who subscribes to the belief that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

These two people are alike in their willingness to be vulnerable for the sake of knowledge, and like each other, they are both labeled negatively. Almost no one praises them for their curiosity and opinions. The girl in my class is generally shunned because she asks so many questions, taking away from the students' "learning time," which to me is silly. I mean how else can we learn if we do not question? Similarly, the Willard Preacher, while not as harshly criticized for voicing opinions, is still thought of as somewhat of a sideshow and rarity. Not many people would be open to voicing their opinions on such controversy.

It is amazing to me that this kind of individuality is condemned in this nation, which has boasted individuality as one of its main accomplishments. So often the US compares itself to other countries that are stricter with personal freedoms, such as speech, and harshly criticizes them for their lack of openness. Yet what are we doing here? We too condemn individuality, if not as formally as other nations may, but in our social circles.

It has been my experience that people who are true individuals, in that they put themselves out there and let their true inner selves and emotions shine through, are often put down by society. Individuality can be thought of as two separate things, a true individual, and a false individual, in that the actions of the person may be thought as individualistic, but in reality he or she is merely following trends, obeying orders, and bowing to their own social authority. It is the way of this nation to follow trends. Anyone outside of this circle will be labeled as freaks. So many hide their individuality and thus lose out on the best of whom they can be. If more people were to embrace individuality, their true selves could flourish and benefit not only themselves, but also those around them.

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