The Reason I Finished My Mid-Terms So Quickly; Or My First National Cable Television Appearance

I don’t respond as well or as fast as I’d like to e-mails. But with Blackboard and e-mail fast becoming an incredibly effective and efficient tool for my professors to adjust lessons and distribute readings, I’m slowly adapting to checking it every day and responding right on time.

In the NYU Communications program, they tend to send out several e-mails a day. As a freshmen, some are more helpful than others. They advertise internship opportunities, club meetings, and other things. A big trend seems to be offering free pizza from a campus pizza parlor called Pizza Mercado. I rarely actually open them up, but one caught my eye: MTV Casting Call.

I don’t aspire to be the next star of the Real World, but I was curious. What could this be?

I read more and found out that this e-mail was searching for student panelists to ask Bill Gates questions on a television program about the growing importance and influence of technology as an educational tool. The program would air on Friday October 28, 2005. They wanted a personal bio, a photo, and a few questions you’d like to ask Bill Gates. Instead of putting this off like I normally would have, for whatever reason, I responded almost instantaneously. I sent the best photo of myself I could find, wrote a bio about how I liked to play bass guitar and was interested in global media, and sent a question: “What can the United States do to compete with emerging Asian countries that are closing the technology gap?”

I thought nothing of it and checked my e-mail two days later. They wanted me to be in the audience for the television show. Cool.

When I got there, though, I found out they had other plans.

I was shuttled into an elevator with security in the Viacom building in Times Square when I checked in. I was taken to the 54th floor and brought into an executive office. It was me and two MTV television producers. I was told my question had been selected for the broadcast and that I was to wear this special green wristband to differentiate me from the rest of the students. Slowly, a few other college-aged students would fill the board room table. At about 7:00 PM, we were taken on a different elevator to the second floor. Unbeknownst to me, I don’t watch a lot of MTV, I was in the elevator, next to host of the program, Gideon Yago.

The second floor was where TRL was taped and we were on set. I was told by a producer that my question would be last as Bill Gates walked on set and warned that all the questions may not make it on air.

As Gates and Yago got situated, the production crew made their final adjustments. I had in my hand one of the famed MTV-News Microphones. Had a lot of butterflies.

About 30 minutes had gone by of live rolling and it was finally my turn to ask my question. At this point, I thought for sure it would be cut from the program.

Gates and Yago were extremely nice and in-between rolling, they answered all kinds of things, from Gates’ favorite band, I snuck that one in (for the record, it’s U2), to Yago’s experiences covering Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War.

Last Friday, for the first time, the program aired. I had been telling all of my friends about it; a TV program a month in the making. I had a lot of anxiety as I watched the program; was my shirt too bright? did I wear the right thing? was I sweating too much? would my question make it to air. There I was. I didn’t look terribly out of place and I wasn’t sweating. I was sweating at home, though.

The final commercial break had passed and they had yet to air my question. Looks like I didn’t make it.

I spoke too soon.

Shortly after the break, with approximately four minutes in the program left, I heard my cue from Gideon: “I believe we have time for one more question.” Batter-up.

My voice didn’t squeak but my shoulders looked stiff. I was hunched over. I was trying to be nice to the two petite students to my left and right and didn’t want to squish them. As slow as the show took to progress while I was waiting to see if my question appeared, it went at least six times as fast when I was actually on it, speaking to Bill Gates and Gideon Yago. Somewhere in the middle, my phone rang. I ignored it; I was still holding my breath. It rang again. It was my mom, again. This time, I answered it. And that was the day I made my first national cable television appearance.

(This post was originally published on November 1, 2005 on It has been edited for accuracy for reposting on June 18, 2011.)

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