Attention, single male royalty the world over: My interviewee, exceptional Head of State for the country of Argentina, is very sweet, very smart, and very interested in the life of the silver spoon. She mentions you each by name, and subtly exhibits over her unadorned ring finger in your general direction.
I interviewed Ashby W. , native of the scrubby, small-town rurality of grand ol’ Texas, during her family’s vacation in California (she was thoughtful enough to step outside for our early appointment so her family could sleep in). We loved her as a Head of State, and she loves tennis, working (her list of extracurriculars could fill the Library of Alexandria), and real-life princes. She hates, one would assume, only real-life princesses, who are slowly edging in on the number of available real-life princes. She also hates the fact that The West Wing, her favorite TV show, was canceled just a year after she was born, before she was old and lucid enough to picket its premature cancellation.
Give Ashby a big round of applause for her performance at Model G20’s 2021 July Summit, A Healthier Earth and Beyond, and lend your eyes to her interview!
Justine Hudock: Start us off with the basics: What’s your name, where are you from, what year are you in school, and what’s a silly, fun fact about you?
Ashby W.: Okay, so my name is Ashby. And I’m from Lubbock, Texas, which is in the panhandle of Texas — very West Texas-type of lifestyle (agriculture-y). I will be a senior in high school, and a fun fact about myself: I’m learning to juggle.
JH: What was your title and country in the Summit? Did you find there was anything especially interesting about designing for your particular country’s needs?
AW: I was the Head of State of Argentina. And what I found particularly interesting about my country was we had a lot of raw materials, and they were very specific to our region of the world — we’re part of the lithium triangle along with a bunch of countries surrounding us. We had tons of lithium and uranium, and other very specific elements that lots of countries need to operate. But especially in this instance of global health and space exploration, it was seen to be, you know… Trading vaccines for lithium didn’t seem like the best trading agreement at the time, which it turned out to work out very, very well with several countries.
JH: Lots of our Delegates and Ministers came to the Summit leaning more toward an interest in one of the two topics. Did you come to the Summit interested more in global health, or more in space exploration? And did you leave the Summit still more interested in one of those? Or did you flip midway?
AW: I definitely came to the Summit interested more in global health, and in fact, I was pretty strongly against getting distracted via the space exploration track. I just did not want to do it. I didn’t feel like I had any sort of knowledge to properly explore that area. So I just thought, keep me in global health. But during the K-Prize challenge, it got me thinking in a different light about the space exploration track. Our country proposed to use satellites to find uranium hotspots in Argentina, and that turned out to be something that I never would have thought of. But it was very interesting to me, that that kind of thing could just come out of any mind — like, not just global health, not just space exploration. By the end, I definitely became a lot more interested in space exploration because of that.
JH: Going off that then: to what extent does your interest in either of the two topics inform anything about how you imagine your future path might manifest? Do either have anything to do with what you might study in college, or the sort of field that you hope to end up in, even in a peripheral way?
AW: I definitely think it will influence some of my future career — maybe not my college path, because I plan to study international relations in college with a double major in Middle Eastern languages and cultures. I want to write international policy law for the government. But, of course, that’s definitely going to have some sort of relationship with global health; it’s going to intertwine because that international policy will always have something to do with global health, because it’s a global concern. And there’s always going to be a health problem, whether it’s an AIDS epidemic in Africa, or a global pandemic, for that matter. So it’s definitely something that I’ll eventually end up crossing paths with.
JH: Any dream colleges, while we’re on the topic?
AW: Absolutely. Columbia University has this program where you spend two years in either France or Ireland, and then you spend two years at Columbia, New York. And so I want to do that, because you end up graduating with a double major, but it only takes four years, and you get to go abroad.
JH: As someone interested in international relations, do you have any advice on how you’ve come to be interested on a global scale of many different politically important topics? How have you managed to set your mind from the little world of West Texas to the whole world?
AW: I was always interested in political science, and that was mostly because of my brother. He has always been interested in political science. And we watched this 90s TV show, The West Wing, all the time. And, for the past seven years, I’ve volunteered at this little place called the Lubbock Dream Center. We get up super early every morning, we bag groceries for the needy. Anyway, I just fell in love with serving people. It’s just what I love to do, but it’s not anything like what I’d be doing as a political scientist, and so I thought maybe political science isn’t for me — I can’t just give up directly helping people when my career begins.
So, I joined a program this summer that was trying to help provide security solutions for Yomi State University in Nigeria. And that’s when it really clicked. International relations is what I want to do. I want to help people on a global scale.
JH: Did you have a particular favorite part of the Summit?
AW: I loved the symposium, on the second day. That was really, really fun. We were just kind of jumping around everywhere, meeting everyone — we sang songs! It was a really great time.
JH: Beyond what you’ve already told me about your volunteer life, what do you do out of school that you really enjoy? Extracurriculars, hobbies?
AW: I’m an avid tennis player. That’s what I spend most of my time doing. I’ve won two state championship titles, and one runner up title last year. I’m also a writer for three local neighborhood magazines in Lubbock. I’m also an intern for a congressional rep here in Texas. That’s kind of what I do: play tennis, volunteer, write, and intern.
JH: If you could invent one thing that would make life easier for people, what would you invent?
AW: Something like a combination of the United Nations with the European Union: an organization where you have every country in the world represented.
JH: What is one goal, personal or professional, you would love to achieve in the next five years? A wildest dream?
AW: My wildest dream would be to play tennis in college. And then I would play for like some Northeastern University, and then there’s a prince who’s my age, actually, in Greece, and I would meet him and I would marry him so I wouldn’t have to work for the rest of my life.
JH: What is your perspective on good leadership? And what does it mean to evolve as a leader?
AW: Not micromanaging people — that never works out. A good leader is someone who knows that they can’t, and shouldn’t, have control over everything. Evolving as a leader means coming to recognition of that.
JH: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
AW: A lot of people are surprised to know that I’m from West Texas, because especially where I’m from, there aren’t a lot of people with super-duper high ambition. They’re all great, wonderful people, and I love them, but at the same time, when people ask me where I want to go to school, I’m not responding with the typical Lubbock “I want to study agriculture.” This part of Texas is very, very rural, and you always see a little shock on people’s faces when I say that I have other ambitions, besides, you know, marrying the farmer and making the sweet tea and sitting on the porch.
Class at school?
My seminar class. It’s basically just a lot of independent research, which I love.
Book — title and author?
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. All of Jane Austen’s books present such incredible social commentaries on the life of women back in her time period. But Mansfield also comments on slavery in the time period, which is so interesting to me, because it kind of shows the interconnectivity of the abolition movement with the feminist movement.
Chips and queso. I don’t like spicy food at all — except chips and queso. There’s a place in Texas called Torchy’s Tacos that makes the best queso in the world.
The little chili emoji. I don’t know, it works in every situation. I use it a lot.
From The West Wing: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed individuals can change the world, because it’s the only thing that ever has.”