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Harvard University student becomes first DACA recipient to win Rhodes Scholarship

Jin Kyu Park, awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, stands in the Barker Center at Harvard University.

"There's no way something like this belongs to just one person," Jin Kyu Park said of how he feels about being awarded the scholarship.

A Harvard University senior made history as the first recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, to be awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Jin Kyu Park, 22, was awarded the scholarship to continue his studies at the University of Oxford in the U.K. next year, the office of the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust announced Saturday.

Park, who grew up in the borough of Queens in New York City, was born in South Korea and has said he came to the U.S. at the age of 7. He is the first recipient of DACA, the Obama administration program that protects some young immigrants from deportation, to win the scholarship.

The Rhodes Trust provides full financial assistance for scholars to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford for two or three years.

Park told NBC News the achievement was still sinking in.

"When they first announced it, it was really — I felt nothing but like an immense gratitude," he said. "Now that gratitude has given way to kind of a desire to use this opportunity to make sure I lift up others in the community. There's no way something like this belongs to just one person."

This was Park’s second year applying for the scholarship. At the time of his first application, DACA recipients were not yet eligible for the award, according to the U.S. organizer for the program.

Elliot Gerson, the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, told NBC News Park was an “extraordinarily qualified” candidate, but the group could not change their eligibility policies midway through the process last year.

Gerson said he petitioned the trustees and they agreed to expand eligibility to include DACA recipients the following year and advertised nationally so other students could also apply.

“In looking for those Americans with extraordinary talent, a combination of academic excellence with character leadership and ambition to serve others, we didn’t want to exclude Dreamers who are, in our opinion, such important Americans and who offer so much to this country and to the world,” he said.

DACA allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007. The Obama-era initiative has allowed 700,000 young people, known as "Dreamers," to avoid deportation.

The Trump administration moved to end the DACA program a year ago, but federal courts have blocked that attempt. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court blocked President Donald Trump from ending the program, temporarily keeping DACA in place.Trump has urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

Park said he was hoping to start a conversation and was "shocked" the eligibility change happened so quickly.

"It came out of nowhere. I didn't expect any of that to happen," he said.

Gerson said the Rhodes Trust was grateful to Harvard for endorsing Park last year despite his technical ineligibility.

“I think Jin is a wonderful example to others and he continues to show great courage under existing law,” he said.

Park said he hoped his achievement would highlight the stories of other undocumented immigrants and what they had to offer the country.

"I'm thankful and I think it's a testament to if you give immigrants in America an opportunity, if you allow us to live fully in our truth and see us totally in our personhood, this is the kind of thing that can happen," he said.

Park is currently completing his bachelor of arts at Harvard in molecular and cellular biology, according to a biography provided by the Rhodes Trust. Park plans on pursuing master’s degrees in migration studies and global health science and epidemiology at Oxford, according to the biography.

Park is also the founder of HigherDreams, Inc., a nonprofit aimed at developing resources for undocumented students seeking higher education, and serves as a chapter program leader for Define American, a nonprofit media and cultural organization working to change conversations about immigrants.

The Rev. Ryan Eller, the executive director of Define American, celebrated Park’s achievement.

"As a longtime leader in our Chapters Program, Jin is a shining example of how we can work together to get even the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world to change their rules and become more equitable,” he said in a statement.

The latest U.S. Rhodes Scholar class also of 32 also includes 21 women, the most ever in a single class, and nearly half of the group are first-generation Americans and immigrants.

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https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/harvard-university-student-becomes-first-daca-recipient-win-rhodes-scholarship-n939146

Mission Accomplished For Democrats, But Not Without Disappointment

Before national progressives fell in love with Rep. Beto O’Rourke and filled his Texas coffers with small-dollar donations, before Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum shockingly won a late August primary in Florida, the Democratic Party had a single goal for the 2018 midterm elections: Win back control of the House of Representatives in order to provide a check on President Donald Trump in the last two years of his term.

And they did.

“People can call it whatever they want,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan told HuffPost when asked if Tuesday night’s results counted as a wave. “Tonight we won the majority back. It’s already approaching 30 seats. It may be better than that. That’s a lot of seats, however you measure it. Tonight was very clear where the American people stood.”

Democrats won big in the House, nearly sweeping the suburban districts they needed in order to obtain a majority, and then pulling off upsets in several districts won by Trump in 2016. 

Some of their most surprising wins came in urban and suburban areas: In Virginia, former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger defeated GOP Rep. Dave Brat in a district centered on the Richmond suburbs, and Navy veteran Elaine Luria defeated Scott Taylor in a district including Virginia Beach. In Oklahoma, nonprofit executive Kendra Horn pulled off a shocking upset in an Oklahoma City-area district held by GOP Rep. Steve Russell. Trump had won the district by double digits in 2016. 

The outcome reflected a growing rural-urban divide in American politics, with the GOP romping in Senate races in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana, and GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s strong performance in rural parts of Florida powering his victory over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Those three Senate pickups, along with still undecided races in Montana, Nevada and Arizona, indicate Democrats could face a steep climb to win back control of the upper chamber in the foreseeable political future.

However, if Democrats sweep the three seats still up in the air, they would have limited Republicans to a single net pickup over the course of a cycle — an accomplishment, considering Democrats started the cycle defending 10 incumbents in states Trump won.

The biggest stings for Democrats came in states in the former Confederacy, where progressives were hoping to capitalize on demographic changes and expand the electorate. Gubernatorial candidate Gillum and Senate hopeful O’Rourke both lost by narrow margins, and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was trailing. All three candidates had won admiration from progressives across the country and raised heaps of money online. 

O’Rourke seemed to suggest he could run again in the future. (Some Democrats have suggested he run for president; others hope he will challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn in 2020.)

“We will see you out there, down the road,” O’Rourke told his supporters. “I’m so fucking proud of you guys.”

And in an early morning speech, Abrams promised voters she would get a “do-over,” indicating she believed enough votes were outstanding to force the race to a runoff. 

There were also disappointments in the Rust Belt and Midwest. Although Democratic senators easily dispatched GOP opponents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, they didn’t match those results at the gubernatorial level, failing to capture governor’s races in Ohio and Iowa, two states Trump had won easily in 2016.

But here, there were also reasons for optimism: In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly won early Wednesday, apparently finally ousting GOP Gov. Scott Walker. 

But Walker’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, said early Wednesday morning that the campaign wasn’t conceding.

“I’m here tonight to tell you that fight is not over,” she told supporters, before requesting donations to fund a possible recount. 

There were also other triumphs: Democrat Laura Kelly romped over a favorite of Trump’s, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, by a 5 percentage point margin. Initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed in Arkansas and Missouri, as did Medicaid expansion in a slew of red states. And the Democratic Party made massive gains at the state level, bringing unified Democratic government to Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico and New York. It also ended one-party GOP rule in Kansas, Michigan and New Hampshire.

But the biggest victory was always going to be control of the House, which will give the party the power to investigate every aspect of Trump’s administration and stop all but the most bipartisan legislation. In the past, presidents who have lost the House have appeared apologetic. When George W. Bush lost 31 House seats in 2006, he called it a “thumping.” When Barack Obama’s Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, he labeled it a “shellacking.”

The GOP’s gains in the Senate allowed Trump to make a different claim. 

Two Charts Show Trump's Job Gains Are Just A Continuation From Obama's Presidency

There has been a fair amount of rhetoric about the job growth and lower unemployment rate seen since President Trump took office. Candidate Trump touted that there would be 25 million jobs created over 10 years if he was elected. In January 2017, I wrote that this was a fairly easy campaign promise when you analyze the data and realize that it will only take 2% annual growth of the workforce to hit this target.

This is a review of Trump’s Economic Scorecard before the midterm elections.

President Trump started with a distinct advantage with a workforce of 145.7 million, 9% larger than when President Obama took office. If the workforce were to only grow by 2%, that would add just over 2.9 million jobs a year or 243,000 per month. Over the course of 10 years, there would be over 29 million jobs added.

Additionally, over President Obama’s last six and five years in office after the economy had recovered from the Great Recession, the average employment gains were 2.42 and 2.48 million jobs per year. Pretty much on track to add 25 million over 10 years. So it appears that Trump can reach his 25 million job growth goal even if the economy continued to grow at the pace under Obama .

To provide a monthly comparison, the average employment gain in Obama’s last six years in office (after getting out of the recession's impact) was 201 thousand. And the average for his last five years was 207 thousand, essentially the same as the 208 thousand for the first nine months this year.

Over 2 million jobs added per year for the past 8 years

Below are the employment gains from President Bush’s last four years in office from just before the start of the Great Recession, through President Obama’s and so far through President Trump’s tenure.

Bush’s last four years in office:

  • 2005: 210,000 per month or 2.52 million for the year
  • 2006: 175,000 per month or 2.09 million
  • 2007: 96,000 per month or 1.15 million
    • Last six months averaged 55,000 per month
  • 2008: Negative 297,000 per month (recession takes hold)
    • Lost 3.6 million jobs

Obama’s eight years:

  • 2009: Negative 422,000 per month
    • Lost 5.1 million jobs (teeth of the recession)
  • 2010:  88,000 per month or 1.05 million for the year
  • 2011: 174,000 per month or 2.09 million
  • 2012: 179,000 per month or 2.14 million
  • 2013: 192,000 per month or 2.3 million
  • 2014: 250,000 per month or 3 million
  • 2015: 226,000 per month or 2.7 million
  • 2016: 187,000 per month or 2.24 million

Trump’s through September:

  • 2017: 182,000 per month or 2.19 million
  • Through September 2018: 208,000 per month or 2.5 million run rate
U.S. employment

U.S. employmentGRAPH COURTESY OF JOEL D. SHORE, BASED ON EMPLOYMENT DATA FROM THE U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

Unemployment rate has been dropping for 9 years

The unemployment rate shows pretty much the same progression from President Obama to President Trump . The unemployment rate started to climb the last two years of President Bush’s second term and substantially in Obama’s first year as the Great Recession that he had inherited was having a huge impact.

Bush’s last four years in office:

  • December 2005: 4.9%
  • December 2006: 4.4%, decreased 0.5%
  • December 2007: 5.0%, increased 0.6%
  • December 2008: 7.3%, increased 2.3%

Obama’s time in office

  • December 2009: 9.9%, increased 2.6%(teeth of the recession)
  • December 2010: 9.3%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2011: 8.5%, decreased 0.8%
  • December 2012: 7.9%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2013: 6.7%, decreased 1.2%
  • December 2014: 5.6%, decreased 1.1%
  • December 2015: 5.0%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2016: 4.7%, decreased 0.3%

Trump’s through September:

  • December 2017: 4.1%, decreased 0.6%
  • September 2018: 3.7%, decreased 0.4%

The second graph that shows the U.S. unemployment rate continues on essentially the same path even with a slightly higher GDP growth rate (based on trailing four quarters growth).

U.S. unemployment rate

U.S. unemployment rateGRAPH COURTESY OF JACK WOIDA USING FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF ST. LOUIS, FRED DATA

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