An open letter to Leslie Knope

Subject: An open letter to Leslie Knope
From: Kaanan Raja
Date: 6 Mar 2015

Dear Ms. Leslie Knope,
First, I’d like to commend you and the Pawnee, Indiana, Department of Parks and Recreation on seven brilliant years filled with laughter, tears, more laughter and the occasional cringe of discomfort. Regardless of what the audience momentarily felt, you’ve always left us entertained since the show “Parks and Recreation” premiered in 2009.
Suffice it to say, last week’s finale left me even more than entertained: If you ask my roommate, she’ll tell you I hogged the TV with a tissue box in one hand and one of Urbana-Champaign’s finest Insomnia cookies in another.
However, what my roommate doesn’t know about last week’s sob-fest is that while you and the rest of the gang were busy saying goodbye, I was busy planning a new position for you here at my university.
The camera has focused on your ambition to make the city of Pawnee even greater and more beautiful for seven whole years. However, I think it’s time to make changes to your usual local government bureaucratic cast and scene; instead, you should focus on a particular college campus.
Yes, Ms. Knope, I’d like you to pack your bags and head over to the small town of Urbana-Champaign ­— the Pawnee of Illinois, if you will — to fill in as the co-chancellor next to our very own Dr. Phyllis Wise.
After all, the University could definitely benefit from your presence. As someone who has excelled as the Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation and eventually was elected Governor of Indiana, you’ve got an impeccable resume and are a candidate that this campus could definitely employ.
With these credentials, I think you could bring some serious changes to my alma mater.
Which brings me to the first issue: Our university lacks a mascot that unifies the campus. However, serving your time at the parks department, you’ve already given us a solution that could combine both our interests.
The Parks and Rec gang rallied around Li’l Sebastian, the town’s now-deceased miniature horse. To commemorate this young horse’s life as well as raise school spirit among our campus, we could invest in a new mascot here at the University — a new Li’l Sebastian.
With you here, the University of Illinois Li’l Sebastians would be the first of many changes that would arise on our campus.
As you’re known for being able to celebrate almost anything, maybe this campus could finally have days off from school — whether it be the infamous Galentine’s Day or (gasp) perhaps an actual snow day.
But I don’t want this university to think we’d only be adding minor changes with your arrival. Along with your inclusion of a new mascot and additional days of celebration on campus, I know you would bring your famous Leslie Knope optimism and charm alongside with you.
It’s this same idealism that allowed you to deal with the excessively ignorant members and moneyed interests of Pawnee that may even help you here in Urbana-Champaign.
With Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new budget plan aiming to cut $209 million dollars from University of Illinois funding, this campus could surely use all the optimism we can find.
Finally, with your experience in the Parks and Recreation department, you would be able to give Urbana-Champaign a wonderful gift — a more aesthetically pleasing campus.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely pleased with the maintenance that goes into keeping this campus as clean as possible. However, perhaps under your guidance, we would be able to look out of our restaurant windows of Green Street and not see minimally scattered trees and red solo cups alike.
Regardless of what you might plan on adding to this campus, if the same motivated energy that was the soul of “Parks and Rec” is brought to this university, there’s no telling what our new Chancellors would be able to accomplish.
Ultimately, everyone wants a Leslie Knope on our side in life: You’re a fighter for our public parks, a defender of all things waffle-related and a creator of the most colorful compliments.
As you can see, you’d definitely be an asset to our wonderful campus.
I know you may have a possible presidential campaign you need to work on, but if that all doesn’t work out, you’re always welcome to become a University of Illinois Li’l Sebastian — only after I get Chancellor Wise’s approval, of course.
Regardless of your future career choice, give my best to your husband Ben and the rest of Pawnee’s finest.
Kaanan Raja