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Rhodes Scholar sets sights on global issues

  • Young Achiever Peter Merritt

Tackling the world’s most urgent challenges is no small feat but that is the ambition of Peter Merritt who was recently selected as Bermuda’s Rhodes Scholar.

Peter, 25, aims to use his expertise in politics and economics to help navigate a way to improve life for all.

A Saltus Grammar School alumni, Peter graduated from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2016 with a double major in Political Science and Economics, earning a distinction and Magna Cum Laude Latin honours. He has been contributing to the Yale Journal of Medicine and Law evaluating the impact of laws on various medical issues. He is currently working at JP Morgan and Davis Polk and Wardwell LLP in New York City.

Peter was driven to learn about politics and economics when, just before attending high school, he experienced the Great Recession of 2008.

He told The Royal Gazette: “Although I hadn’t yet begun high school, I was amazed by how poorly economic experts had understood the health of American markets and moved by how these errors could so tangibly affect even the Bermudian economy and people. And as governments and politicians then attempted to restore economic growth, I realised just how vital these disciplines were to improving people’s lives and decided that I had to study them in university.”

He hopes to now broaden his horizons and use his academic experience to help to solve global issues.

“I want to work in an international organisation like the UN or IMF after Oxford, using economics and politics to address first-hand some of the world’s most pressing challenges — alleviating poverty, increasing political access or improving educational opportunities. And eventually, I hope to take this experience and return home to focus on these issues in Bermuda as well, whether that be through the private or public sector.”

Outside of his studies, Peter enjoys running competitively which he says has helped him in his pursuit for success academically: “It helps clear my mind, keeps me fit, and gives me another pursuit in which to set goals and challenge myself. Regardless of the endeavour, though, I’ve personally found that having a passion for something — anything — outside of academics has been crucial to reducing the stress and monotony that can often accompany rigorous studying.”

Asked about his other secrets to success, he said: “Academically, I believe that the best thing a student can do is to ask questions, whether it be to clarify a confusing point, further an engaging dialogue, or challenge a preconceived notion. Being inquisitive goes beyond hard work and dedication and ensures that I am always learning new things and engaging with the people and material before me. Personally, I think that having a support system to rely on is crucial to success. I am so fortunate to have an amazing family that inspires me and that supports me wholeheartedly, and I am forever grateful for them and for the teachers, friends, and peers that have helped me to succeed.

“I am immensely grateful to have been selected as a Rhodes Scholar and very humbled by the company that I now keep. I love my home, and to represent Bermuda on such a stage is an honour and a privilege. I only hope that in the future I can do justice to the Rhodes Trust’s goal for its scholars, to “fight the world’s fight.”

While at Yale he certainly helped to fight that fight first hand by heading up a programme for the needy.

“Yale is an amazing school, but it can often make students feel quite isolated from the city in which it’s located. Soon after arriving in New Haven, I was excited to join and quickly take over a community service project that brought leftover Yale dining hall food to halfway houses in the city, helping to reintegrate former inmates into society.

“The project was a great yet simple way to break beyond the ‘Yale bubble’ and to meet and help feed individuals with little money that were trying to get their lives back on track. I hope it also exposed other students to the difficult challenges that many face beyond the Yale gates.”