Graham Blanks was born and raised in Athens and will soon graduate from Athens Academy. During high school Graham played soccer, ran cross country and did track and field. He also participated in the Model UN program and founded the Athens Academy Environmental Club, which does environmental services projects in the community. After graduation, Graham will attend Harvard University, where he will be on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, and plans to study Economics. He lives with his father Eric and sister Annie in the Five Points neighborhood in Athens, and in Oconee County with his mother Mary Catherine, stepfather Ed Smith, stepsister Madison, stepbrother Hudson and their dog Bo.
What was your favorite class in high school?
I really liked Calculus with Mr. Michael Salvia. I think that might have been my favorite class. Probably because I like solving equations. I like how it feels when you can nail down a concept and apply it to problems and get the answer right every time. That is actually in a way what inspired me to want to study economics next year because I think a lot of it is Calculus based. I just specifically like the process of finding an answer.
When we are not sheltering in place like this, what do you love to do in Athens?
Hang out with my friends. We like to eat out at Cali-n-Titos, Los Amigos, wherever. In the summer, we like to go to the Athens beach. Hopefully, when this is all over we will get to do that. Also, we just like to walk around Five Points and just mess around and just hang out around town.
What have you been doing with all of this extra time at home?
It has actually been a little bit of a blessing in disguise because my high school track season got cancelled and now what I actually get to do is move onto my college coach and my college training which is pretty intense. It has also given me more time to recover at home so I can work out hard. If necessary, I can sit around all day, kick my feet up, but also I can get work done because all of my classes are online. So, I am just using this time to spend time with my family, slow down and just enjoy the little things.
If you could travel anywhere in the world and there weren’t restrictions like there are now, where would you go and why?
That is a tough one. My dad and I were actually going to do a trip this summer so there are two places I was thinking of. Actually, three. I really like trains a lot so I would love to go to Japan and take the bullet from city to city, learn about the culture, eat the food and what not. Also, I’d like to go to Europe like I was going to with my dad. We were planning on going from Switzerland all the way down to maybe Spain by train along the coast which would have been really cool. So, maybe somewhere in Europe like that. Also, I am a really big soccer fan since I used to play soccer and that was my favorite sport. I am a big fan of Chelsea (if you didn’t know, it is a team in London, England in the Premier League) so I would love to go there, especially if they resumed the season in the summer. I would love to go to England and watch some games there.
If you could see any band, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
Number one would definitely be The Strokes. I am a huge fan of The Strokes, and I would love to go to one of their concerts back in maybe 2000 or 2001 when either It Is The Sick came out or Room on Fire. And, I think a concert that would be on anyone’s bucket list is The Grateful Dead concert at Cornell. I think that would have been a really cool one to go to.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I am going to kind of go off the rails here. This isn’t necessarily with someone that I admire the most. I could easily pick someone that I admire the most like Ghandi or someone cliche like that, like a hero to the world. I am really interested in Woodrow Wilson. I have been reading a book on him, andI would love to sit down and talk with him. I just liked how he was an idealist in his policies with The League of Nations. I thought what he did was really cool, there were some things he was not so good on. But, I would love to sit down and talk with him about some of his policies, his thoughts on what is good for the world and is not.
If you could give advice to someone just entering high school, what would you tell them?
I think one that a lot of people say is: try new things. That is definitely something you need to do, especially in high school when there are not many consequences for failing at things. (Not that there is in life. It is okay to fail.) I would say: try new things because you never know when you find your thing or your passion that will help you get to places. To me it is really relatable because when I started to take running more seriously, I never thought I would quit soccer. So, when I started running that opened so many more doors for me and helped me create so many more memories that I am going to cherish for a long time.
What is your favorite movie or series?
I am a big Wes Anderson fan. I would say my favorite movie of his is The Royal Tenenbaums. I will say that is my favorite movie. There is a lot of symbolism and themes in that movie that I don’t think I am smart enough to interpret fully yet, but I know there is a lot of meaning in that movie and I found the plot very beautiful how he played it out.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I would say the first is from my coach for the past four years, coach Nevel Anderson. He had this one quote that I found pretty inspiring, I think pretty much everyone else did. We kind of kidded about it on our team, but it really was meaningful to us. Basically, he said to us before our big races: “if you put me in an arena with just me and a lion and you are watching me from the stands, don’t pray for me, pray for the lion.” I thought that was a pretty cool quote that fired me up a lot. Then, going off the rails for another piece of advice, which is not necessarily a piece of advice, but a quote I interpreted from “Rocks Off” in the song by the Rolling Stones. There is this one line in it that really struck me for some reason even though it wasn’t supposed to be interpreted in this way. Mick Jagger says, “the Sunshine bores the daylights out of me.” I think that is really applicable to right now. I think what he meant was he just likes the nightlife you know, like having fun with his friends. I think it is supposed to be a nostalgic line, but the way I felt was the Sunshine bores the daylights out of me is in a way like the sunshine might symbolize the good times; without the bad times how do you have the good times? Without the lows, how do you have the highs? I am thinking of that quote right now through quarantine. How are you going to have the good times if you don’t have the bad times?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Jeez, that is tough. I feel like I hear a lot of people, especially people who are successful and are like thirty years old and they have an interview and the interviewer is like did you think you would see yourself here fifteen years ago? They always say no. So, hopefully I am somewhere I don’t expect because that probably means I am going down the right path. Because right now I am going off to college and finding something to do with the rest of my life and that I am really passionate about. Hopefully, I am hoping maybe something environmental related to economics because I want to do meaningful work with an economics degree. So, hopefully something relating to that.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Comfort, complacency and relaxation.