When Weinberg junior Danny Kim decided to run for ASG vice president, the first person he told was his opponent and close friend, McCormick junior Alex Van Atta.
“I called Alex up and asked him if it was OK,” Kim said. “And he was cool about it. It was nice of him to be open about that.”
Kim and Van Atta, who is ASG presidential candidate Ani Ajith’s running mate, are running against one another in the ASG elections. However, their friendship goes all the way back to freshman year, thanks to introductions by mutual friends and their involvement in the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s general chapter.
That friendship has deepened significantly since this past winter quarter, when their IV chapter leaders paired them as part of a discipleship program to foster closer peer-to-peer interactions among its members. Since then, the two have been grabbing weekly Plex breakfasts to give mutual advice and encouragement to each other, discussing issues like faith and life in general.
Van Atta had previously told Kim about his intentions to run for a higher ASG leadership position, so Kim faced a tough judgment call after Benison Choi approached him to be his running mate.
“I thought about it for a while, and I realized that both of us have a lot of passion for Northwestern,” Kim said. “But I felt that while he is qualified, so am I. We just bring something different to the table.”
After feeling “a little strange” initially after Kim broke the news, Van Atta said having a close friend campaign against him is no longer an issue.
“It was a bit of a surprise, but it’s a great thing that we both have passion for seeing Northwestern improve,” Van Atta said.
Juggling an election and a friendship is no small feat. Although Van Atta and Kim have had to temporarily put aside their weekly breakfasts for the hectic campaign schedule, they still offer one another the same kind of support that they have given for the past few years.
The two naturally bump into one another more often than usual just because they are involved in the same election, said Kim. The two have been texting and talking throughout the campaign to check in on one another.
Being on the opposing team did not deter Van Atta from sending Danny some encouragement prior to the vice presidential debates. “I wanted to make sure the situation was such that we had nothing against each other,” said Van Atta.
This friendly attitude may all stem from the fact that Van Atta does not sees himself as running "against" Kim: “We’re running because we both have passion for ASG and Northwestern,” Van Atta said. “It’s a commonality we should celebrate, and we shouldn’t let the elections affect our friendship.”
Likening the election to a situation where two friends happen to apply for the same job, Kim said that being on opposing teams does not exclude them from supporting one another throughout the process.
The election, they say, has reminded them that their friendship supersedes the election in importance. “It’s all about remembering what’s most important, and that if either of us win, we’ll do a good job,” Kim said. “I value our friendship on a greater level than just trying to be super competitive with him.”
Van Atta agrees. "We're competing, but it shouldn't tear us apart as friends," he said. "It really shows that [the friendship] is what matters at the end of the day."
To Van Atta, Danny would make a great leader because of his personable nature and determination — and the feeling is mutual for Kim, who said he would support Van Atta if the latter won.
“If Alex wins, I’d be super happy for him because I think he’d do a great job,” Kim said. “I just hope we can grab some breakfast together soon.”