“November 9, 2016: Passing through the halls on my way to class, I can’t help but marvel at the sheer absurdity of it all. Copious amounts of Confederate flag attire, the echo of ‘Trump Train” chants ricocheting off the lockers, the flashes of red MAGA hats in the hallways, the click of steel-toed Carolina boots on the stairs. Granted, this is nothing new in my deeply conservative town, nestled in the impoverished hills and hollers of Western Maryland. However, this is on a new level – people aren’t just happy, they’re emboldened. Trump’s late-night victory has injected new life into an otherwise monotonous school day. It seems even some of my normally apathetic peers, the “too cool for school” bunch, are fully engaged – at least politically speaking. Trump has given them something to care about, to be proud of, to flaunt.”

— From an introduction to “An Outlier’s Tribe: Growing Up Between Appalachia and the Liberal Coast,” by Morgan K. Edwards.

On that same day in Brunswick Maine, 660 miles away from Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg, Maryland, the mood on the Bowdoin College campus was decidedly different — somber, shocked, shaken.Talk about two different worlds.

Morgan Edwards, now a Bowdoin College senior, experienced some culture shock when he moved from Frostburg, Maryland to Brunswick in the fall of 2017. To compound matters, he was still grieving the loss of his dad who had died during his senior year in high school.

Morgan has blazed an extraordinary trail during his time at Bowdoin, his new world. A government major and history minor, he’s earned straight A’s and been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He played varsity basketball during his first two years. And, oh yes, he wrote a fine book during his sophomore year.

I happened to meet Morgan Edwards at one of the Second Friday Art Walks on Maine Street this past summer. We were sitting side by side, trying to sell our new books. As we talked, it became clear that he is a most unusual young man. Thus, this article.

While Frostburg, Maryland might be considered “conservative,” Morgan’s family was not. They lived, in truth, in a cocoon. His father taught at Frostburg University; his mother was deeply involved in town politics, even though she was often the lone liberal voice. Morgan developed a close relationship with his older sister, Georgia Grace Edwards, as they were both outliers in their school community. She went on to Middlebury College. Morgan tagged along on her college visits and thereby became interested in attending a fine New England liberal arts college.

An email out of the blue from Eric Koester, an adjunct professor at Georgetown and an entrepreneur who encourages first-time authors, prompted Morgan to tackle a book about his life as a liberal growing up in Appalachia. He wrote the book between September 2019 and July 2020, an extraordinary feat by any measure.

In addition to excelling in the classroom and on the basketball court at his high school, Morgan got involved in national political issues. After the shooting at Sherman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, he led a “Walk in” (the superintendent disallowed ‘walkouts’ at his School). He gave a speech attended by over half the student body urging his fellow students to register to vote. During the speech, dozens of students gathered in the cafeteria as a counter-protest garbed in NRA attire. (“I was encouraged by the sight of more young people becoming involved in the civic process and grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute in my small way to inspiring youth activism.”)

On a side note, Morgan became an expert free throw shooter while growing up. He became a five-time state champion and finished fourth twice and second once in national free throw competitions. He was also a state finalist in the National Geographic Geography Bee. Whew!

An excerpt from the Epilogue in his book reveals Morgan’s wise perspective. “There’s a tension, though, as I’ve pulled farther and farther away from the environment in which I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, the liberal bubble is great. After years living among a tribe with whom I felt little allegiance, I have embraced the bubble with open arms. In the short term, it’s a reprieve, a chance to be surrounded by the people I wish I met much earlier and to have the conversations for which I long yearned. But I am likewise the first one to know that it’s also a chance to become removed, to forget about day-to-day life in the mountains of Western Maryland, to be blinded to the people and issues right in my backyard. The liberal bubble is great, but it is, after all, a bubble, just like the bubble presented by home.”

Morgan has applied for a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year in Lithuania after Bowdoin. Only time will tell where his future path will lead. Stay tuned.

Note: Morgan Edwards book is available at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick and on Amazon.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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