How to live your life: Advice from an American student who was killed in Egypt

July 12, 2013
Andrew Pochter's letter tells the boy that "What is most important is that I am trying to do my best for others. I want to surround myself with good people!" (AP)
Andrew Pochter's letter tells the boy that "What is most important is that I am trying to do my best for others. I want to surround myself with good people!" (AP)

Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old Kenyon College student from Chevy Chase, Md., was stabbed to death on June 28 during anti-government protests in Alexandria, Egypt. Pochter, a bystander to the demonstrations, was in Alexandria on an internship for a non-profit organization to teach English to Egyptian 7- and 8-year-olds. His family said the young man "went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East. He had studied in the region, loved the culture, and planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding."

Pochter's compassion and his determination to make a difference had begun much closer to home. For most of the past five summers, starting when he was 16, he had volunteered as a counselor for a program called Camp Opportunity. It is a weeklong sleepaway camp for at-risk children, aged 6 to 12, from the Baltimore area.

Each camper is assigned his own counselor, and the relationship continues each year. In June, Andrew Pochter’s camper had turned 12, and was moving on from the program. Unable to attend the "graduation" picnic, Pochter sent the child a letter—one that summed up the way he was living his own life, and what he hoped to have passed along. It was read by Andrew's sister Emily at Pochter's funeral on Friday (text of Pochter's letter is below the PDF):

Andrew Pochter's letter by The Washington Post

Text of Andrew Pochter's letter:
June 10,2013

Dear Justin,

Hello how are you man? I can’t believe it has been a year since camp. I am sure you are wiser, taller and smarter since I saw you last. Please accept my apologies that I will not be there for the graduation ceremony. Right now I am in Alexandria, Egypt teaching English to young students who are around your age. They all speak Arabic so learning English as a second language is quite difficult. But they are all really intelligent, just like you! You would really like the Arabic language, you should check it out!

Egypt is hazardous right now because the country is feeling the consequences of a enormous political revolution. I lose electricity and water all of the time but that’s okay because I have many Egyptian friends to help take care of me. When I am in trouble, they take care of me and when they are in trouble, I always take care of them. Good friends do not come easily but as a rule, I always appreciate the good deeds people do for me even if I don’t know them well. What is most important is that I am trying to do my best for others. I want to surround myself with good people!

I did not come up with this personal philosophy on my own. Without thoughtful and caring people like you, I would probably be a mean and grumpy person. Your kind heart and genuine character serve as a model for me. I hope that you will never stop your curiosity for the beautiful things in life. Go on hikes in forests, canyons and mountains, go fishing, research wildlife, and get out of city Life if you can. Surround yourself with good friends who care about your future. Fall in love with someone. Get your heart broken. And then move on and fall in love again. Breathe life every day like it is your first. Find something that you love to do and never stop doing that thing unless you find something else you love more.

Don’t blame others for their mistakes. It makes you weak. You are a strong man who does not need to be weighted down by people who only complain and say negative things. Speak with conviction and believe in yourself because your personal confidence is just as important as your education.

I wish I could be there to say my congratulations but I know that it wouldn't change much. You have earned it. Hopefully one day you will hang up this diploma next your high school and college diplomas as well.

Try not to forget me. If you ever need anything, just email:

Best Regards.

Your Friend,
Andrew Pochter

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
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