“Pretend I’m George W. Bush, and we’re behind closed doors in the Oval Office,” said the interviewer. “I’m considering supporting drilling in the Arctic. You have one minute to persuade me otherwise.”

As an ardent environmentalist and a member of several organizations seeking to protect forests and wildlife refuges, Emory senior John A. Henderson could not have been more pleased with this scenario, posed to him in the last of three intensive Rhodes scholarship interviews.

“Immediately, I lit up and began to respectfully lay out the arguments against drilling,” Henderson says. “I had to gently but firmly argue my position.”

A few hours later, in the opulent Atlanta law offices of Alston and Bird where the final round for the Southeast region took place, Henderson found out that he would be one of thirty-two American Rhodes Scholars for 2003, among ninety selected worldwide.

The Rhodes, a hundred years old this year, offers two years of study at Oxford University (with a chance of renewal for a third year).

Henderson, who majored in political science with a focus on Latin American politics and minored in philosophy and Italian, will travel to England in September to begin pursuing a master’s of philosophy degree in political thought. A self-described progressive who worked on Green candidate Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign, Henderson aspires to a career in politics or academia through which he can help create a more responsive government “instead of the elite model we currently have.”

Associate Dean Joanne Brzinski, head of Emory’s office of scholarships and fellowships, helps prepare students for the Rhodes. “We have a philosophy that we want to select from accomplished students, not create accomplishments,” she says. “The competitiveness and intensity has increased, and students invest a great deal of time and energy knowing their chances are quite slim. My goal is to take very good students and help them present themselves as well as they can.”

One of nine students nominated by the University this year, Henderson is Emory’s seventeenth Rhodes Scholar. He was one of two scholars this year from Georgia (the other is Adam Cureton, a senior at the University of Georgia).

Henderson, who interned at the Carter Center last year, is a member of many social, political, and environmental organizations, including the Alaska Coalition of Georgia, Empty the Shelters, Georgia Coalition Against the War, Students Against Violence, the Heritage Forest Campaign, and the Atlanta Urban Debate League.

As a guitarist in the Atlanta folk-punk band “The Whelks,” (named after the Georgia state shell,) Henderson hangs out in the funky Little Five Points section of Atlanta and sees music as another form of activism. His influences include Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie.

“I use music . . . to uplift the downtrodden and tell silenced stories,” he says. “I try to foster thought by adding my political voice to the many others.”—M.J.L.



© 2003 Emory University