Harvard Leader of the Week
For our third installment in this weekly series, we spoke with Joe Choe, the chair of the Citizenship Tutoring Program at the Institute of Politics. Joe is a sophomore in Kirkland House studying Economics.
Why did you get involved with Citizenship Tutoring?
As a freshman, I knew that I wanted to be involved with the Institute of Politics (IOP) because of my passion for politics and public service. Within the IOP, I first joined the Harvard Political Review because I enjoyed working with my high school newspaper and I wanted to continue writing in college. However, I was also looking for a way to engage in direct service and I found that Citizenship Tutoring (CitTut) was the perfect outlet for me to pursue this. It’s easy to overlook people like the groundskeepers and cooks at Harvard who are so vital in keeping our school running smoothly on a daily basis. CitTut has allowed me to give back to these wonderful people and show my gratitude to them by spending a couple of hours each week mentoring them through their U.S. citizenship application process.
Who do you model yourself after as a leader?
I don’t model myself after anyone in particular because I am influenced by so many amazing people. What I do know is that a leader must be willing to yield and sacrifice for his followers. That is what I always keep in mind. There are people who view leadership as something that is synonymous with kingship. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. A leader must be able to serve others by putting them before him. I have to make sure all of my members are first to reap rewards before I do. This is why rather than focusing on individual ambition, I always try to do things with the best interests of my followers in mind.
Who inspires you?
My parents. I know this might sound cliché, but I don’t know anyone else who is as selfless, caring, and brave as them. My mother came to the States to complete her PhD completely on her own without any money or connections. As a teenager, my father worked at a tofu factory to support his family, but he still managed to attend UC Berkeley and graduate school on full scholarships. Both of them persevered and managed to work past countless obstacles to get to where they are today. I owe everything to them. Today, my parents spend the majority of their free time volunteering at our church and dedicating their lives to helping others who are going through the same struggles they did in the past. The example they set for my brother and me is hard to follow, but I am so fortunate to have them in my life.
Growing up, what was your dream job?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a spy for the CIA. I remember how in 2nd grade I would use recess as a time to hone my spying skills by going on “missions” in the playground. I’ve come to realize now that what I did was pretty much just stalk people and annoy them. No wonder I had no friends back then (I still don’t). But in all seriousness, I see that even then I knew that I wanted to work somehow in a dynamic job where I can have fun and be productive at the same time.
If you could have dinner with 5 people (living, dead or fictional) who would they be and why?
I would want to eat dinner with Jesus, Barack Obama, Usher, Muzio Clementi, and Emma Watson. I am a Christian, so how awesome would it be to actually eat with Jesus? President Obama has shattered so many glass ceilings, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for him. Usher’s Confessions was my first CD ever, and he’s the one of the few singers I believe has consistently put out amazing music in the past decade. Many of the first piano pieces I played when I began learning the piano were sonatinas by Muzio Clementi. Emma Watson is Emma Watson. After this dinner, nothing else in life would be able to excite me.