Scholar Profile of Jacob Tobia (NC, ’13)

 Please learn more about Jacob in the following interview by fellow Truman Scholar, Tyler Hatch:

Growing up in North Carolina, it was often difficult to envision a future for myself in public service. I had the passion and drive to serve others, but when I looked at who represented North Carolinians at a local, state, and federal level, I had difficulty finding role models that I could look up to. Working at the North Carolina General Assembly, as a Governor’s page, or on local political campaigns throughout high school, I rarely encountered people who saw the world as I did. Perhaps more importantly, I learned that most public servants in North Carolina were at best permitted, and at worst encouraged by their constituents to be openly hostile towards the LGBTQ community. To me, the message was clear: if I wanted to go into public service, my queer identity would always be a liability.

Throughout college, this was only made more and more apparent to me. As North Carolina shifted from a purple state to solid red, I felt my future prospects in public service shrink around me. And with the passage of NC Amendment One in 2012—a constitutional amendment that banned any legal recognition of same-sex unions—I stopped imaging a future for myself in public service or in North Carolina. I began to believe that my queer identity made me ineligible to ever serve in elected or appointed office./

Needless to say, when I applied to the Truman Scholarship, I was not very optimistic that they would choose someone like me as the North Carolina Truman Scholar. Throughout the process of my application and interview, I worried endlessly about whether or not I would face discrimination in the selection process. As someone who sought to focus on LGBTQ advocacy throughout my career in public service, I did not know whether the scholarship selection panel would take kindly to my passions. After all, I had faced anti-LGBTQ bias in North Carolina scholarship interviews before, and would go on to face it again.

When I found out that I was selected as a Truman Scholar, it was about so much more than the money that came with the scholarship. In very important ways, the Truman scholarship has helped me to once again see a future for myself as a public servant. Through meeting former and current Truman scholars, I have found a community of people who share my passion for public service. More importantly, I have found a community of scholars who value me not in spite of my differences, but because of them.

Through the affirmation and support of the Truman scholar community, I have been able to change the way that I view my queer identity. I no longer see my queer identity as an obstacle to overcome on my path to public service; instead, I see my passion for gender diversity as a fundamental and necessary building block of my commitment to serving others.

 Please learn more about Jacob in the following interview by fellow Truman Scholar, Tyler Hatch:


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