About Me - Nathaniel S Dempsey
The short story on me is that I am a graduate of Washington University's Olin Business School establishing a career in St. Louis. I am originally from Kansas City, and much of my family lives there today.
Ok, if you're still reading, you may actually want to know something about me, so I'll ramble as long you'll read. Deal? I want to say up front that I'm writing this blog for me, although I do hope you enjoy following what's going on in my head from time to time. I started a web page in college, but I quickly found that I didn't update it very often, so I'm hoping the ease of posting on a blog will keep me at it more regularly. I don't have a theme or agenda or focus, other than the obvious fact that it'll have to have something to do with me since I'm posting it. If that's too close to personal therapy or just too plain chaotic for you, go Google something more to your liking. Actually, now that I think about it, that's probably not good marketing to suggest readers go elsewhere...
A good way to explain my childhood is to say that I was born in the small town of Liberty, MO, northeast of Kansas City, and I graduated from high school in the sprawling Kansas City suburb of Liberty, MO. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. My family, especially on my mother's side, has a long history in the area (Clay County), and Liberty is one of those towns that's a little too big for everybody to literally know everybody else, but it still tries. William Jewell College, Liberty Public Schools, and Hallmark Cards are three important ways in which this network functions, and since I wasn't too shabby in school, worked for the district outside of class, had several family members who attended Jewell, and had family members who had worked for Hallmark, it felt like everywhere you went somebody knew you. To this day, farmland endures north and east of Liberty, but ever so gradually people began realizing that there was this wonderful little place pretty close to KC, and the open area to the south and west developed into cookie-cutter subdivisions, bank branches, and Waffle Houses. Not that I'm complaining about Waffle House; many a late night in a place like Liberty tends to get spent at the wonder of a 24-hour establishment that is Waffle House. Even the small country club near my high school of trees and tennis courts and swimming pools has been torn down, replaced by the same old pavement and lights and pollution you can find anywhere in this country. My grandmother grew up on a farm just west of town whose dirt and gravel road out front has since turned into a six lane highway; I went to junior high in the building from which she graduated high school.
Liberty has a really excellent public school system (no doubt the reason the town has been growing so much for the last few decades), and my parents emphasized the importance of academic excellence, so it's really not my fault that I turned out a nerd. You should really be happy how normal I am given the fact that I am, you know, a tad nerdy. I had a good childhood, nothing perfect, but nothing to complain about. I was blessed with a really gifted group of friends; we took first in the state and 14th in the world in something called the Knowledge Master Open when I was in 5th grade, and just for fun we took first in the state again our senior year. I was a not very good runner on a very good cross country team, and I enjoyed my greatest competitive success in debate and forensics with my partner Brian Shank. I was one of those kids who was very good at school but hated it at the same time. Liberty was a place where it was alright to be intelligent and get good grades (by that, I mean there wasn't any pressure to hide it if you were a 'smart kid' or to not get A's or anything like that), and I found that the classes I liked best were often the ones that were a mixture of students, not the tracked ones with the 'advanced' kids (with exception, I must mention, of our gifted program through elementary and middle school). I wax nostalgically about my high school years, but I dreaded every morning about having to wake up and actually, you know, go to school. To this day, I am grateful to be done with high school. I grew up in Second Baptist Church, and Liberty certainly has a very Baptist feel to it. On March 5, 2000, I did my public profession of faith and was baptized on Easter Sunday that year.
I knew when I visited Wash U in the fall of my senior year that I wanted to go there, but figuring out the money is of course part of the reality of college these days. As a side note, it is interesting how much of the educational profession tries to distract teenagers from taking this obviously important variable into account - at some point, we will have to stop loading up young Americans with so much debt. But after looking at some very generous offers elsewhere, and with much appreciated support from my family (another thing I have learned since then, my family is even weirder than I knew - apparently not all families make important decisions with so much input at the family level), I decided Wash U was the place to go and accepted the Dean's Scholarship at Olin. Props to you Truman folks out there, though, because the Pershing program was very tempting. Minus the whole best-thing-in-Kirksville is Pancake City. Or maybe Wal-mart. That's kind of a toss-up. And my Truman excitement has dwindled a little bit too because of how my sister was not given the support she needed to finish her capstone project in her senior year.
At Wash U, I stayed in Liggett (RIP) as a freshman, where I met many of my closest friends for the next few years in St. Louis, Hurd as a sophomore - whose balcony no longer overlooks the ball field across the street - and then moved to my first apartment as a junior. My roommate for two years and a guy I lived with for two more was Adrian, and two other guys I lived with throughout college were Doug and Alex. Brian and I made no plans to go to school together, but not only did we end up at Wash U together, we also did Mock Trial together. Can you say outstanding attorney? Except that I have no desire to be a lawyer, so I was one of those weird people with lots of pre-law friends who made fun of the whole law profession thingy. I did some debate in college, but it's very different from high school. It was fun getting to qualify to nationals in both high school and college when they happened to be in Portland. In May of 2004, I graduated with a BSBA focusing on Management and International Business. Naturally, the jobs I've had since college are in finance, accounting, IT, HR, and other such fields where travel means crossing the Mississippi to reach Illinois. On a serious note, though, I do think having a broad base of experience across administrative functions would tremendously benefit many of the strategy and management folks egregiously mismanaging our nation's largest companies. But what do I know? I mean, Warren Buffett only invests in productive assets, right?
Periodically, I have been helping out with the debate and forensics program at Clayton High School, and those are definitely some great kids. People who go around saying things like 'kids these days...' don't actually spend much time around young people. Or perhaps they are terrified of what will happen when the full generation of millennials can no longer be ignored. A truly multicultural, multigender mindset wary of the corporate media and criminals in suits of course threatens the power structures of both Left and Right in this bomb the Muslims and bail out the rich society.
Currently, I am working at a nonprofit agency called Employment Connection. We do things like job training and placement for people with barriers to employment, like ex-offenders, veterans, TANF and SNAP recipients (welfare and food stamps), homeless persons, disabled persons, and so forth. When I say we, I mean the other people who work there. I started by spending my days back in the accounting department playing with Excel and fighting the copier, and in the summer of 2007 I took over the Executive Assistant position.
As many of my college friends have now left to pursue the next phase of their lives, I have been trying to strike a balance between settling down and thinking about potential changes like grad school. In particular, the Bay Area and Stanford's Graduate School of Business have been calling to me for a while. Since my brother finished grad school in southern California, then went to Seattle, and has now ended up in San Francisco, that means even more family now out there in northern California. However, life in St. Louis is pretty good. You'll never get rich at a nonprofit, but it's certainly good experience, and it is relatively stable employment (a quality becoming increasingly rare in the past couple decades of temp and contract work). Plus, you have to make a lot of money to compensate for leaving the workforce for a couple years for grad school. I used to dabble with swing and blues dancing, but I've found it more frustrating than anything else; it's hard to be a casual dancer. But hey, if I hadn't introduced Emily to Casa Loma, maybe Julie and I never would have met.
As imperfect as labels are, they're kind of fun, too. So here are a few of mine: I'm a young urban professional. I attended a liberal college to major in business. I'm a Baptist. I'm a nerd. I'm an optimist. I'm a single white Midwestern male [well, sort of, in the non-married sense; see previous paragraph]. I’m a suburbanite. I’m not a morning person. I see clearly a vision of how things could be and yet am completely incompetent at the political skills necessary to bring about such a future.
Learn anything? Well, as my American politics professor liked to say, yes and no. I think that people are too complex to divide into neat little marketing categories; what’s important is our common humanity. Life is good and people are good and today is worth enjoying and tomorrow can be even better. I think that we share a deeply passionate yearning for truth in all its myriad forms, and I believe that the various ways we explore that are complimentary, not conflicting. If you were reading this to figure out what the blog's title means to me, that's what I mean by stay curious. It is not a state that requires effort to procure; it's a state that requires effort to suppress. Yet suppress it we often do.
I have a very strong interest in public policy. I do not know if that will ever translate into my paying career, but it's certainly something that kept me up late talking in college. Or maybe that was just the computer games. Anyway, the drug war, our prison system, the use of the military, energy, voter rights, separation of church and state, trade, the environment, foreign affairs, and the proper role of government in the market are some of the policy areas that interest me. Politically, I would say that liberals need to recognize and accept that a large number of people apply a spiritual foundation to morality, while conservatives have to acknowledge that the Constitution, not the Bible or authoritarian control, forms the foundation of this country. Extreme concentration of wealth and secrecy in decision-making processes are antithetical to democratic governance. To realize the innovation and entrepreneurial potential of capitalism, you have to ensure that people's basic needs are met.
Finally, we as a nation will, sooner or later, have to come to terms with the increasing disconnect between the elite leadership, the Powers that Be, the DC-Manhattan Nexus, and We the People. It is not about specific preferences and policy areas so much as it is about the very legitimacy of government and really all of our societal institutions. I do not know the precise form this will take, but there will be some reconciliation, some meeting of the minds as our lawyer friends might say. Be prepared. But don't let fear or worrying keep you from being interested in this fascinating world around us.