The beginning of my second day in DC took off at full speed and never came to a complete stop until I crawled in bed at midnight. Today was a day of reflection, appreciation, and admiration for a nation that we share. At times I found myself tearing up at the various war monuments. The tears were not just an expression of sadness for those who have bravely given their life for our freedom, but also for the pride and progress that we have made in our great country.
This morning’s seminar began with an ice-breaker exercise which allowed us to get to one another. Not only do we have students representing 47 states (plus the District of Columbia and Guam), but also 14 countries from around the world. Students from far away places such as Ecuador, South Korea, and Ghana have made their way to The Washington Center. We have students who have attended the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, campaigned for presidential candidates, and interned for local congressmen. Of course we had the some “Have you ever…” questions as well. Students came up to the stage to do political impersonations: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin, and George W. Bush. However, the latter seemed to draw the loudest applause and laughter when the impersonator ducked just as a pair of shoes came flying straight toward him. When the audience was asked if anyone had ever sang the National Anthem at a major event, a student responded and made her way to the stage where she delivered a beautiful rendition of our national hymn.
By looking around the audience and seeing the diversity of such a gathering, I realized that my goal for this week’s seminar would be to learn how we have progressed in civic engagement not only as individuals, but as a nation. I understand that the most obvious example of this progression is the election of our incoming president, but what were the circumstances of progression in this election that stood out amongst all past elections? Was this only a door opening for future progression and is it possible for this nation to continue to move forward in future campaigns and elections? I would hope to walk away from this experience with the confidence that America has only cracked the door open for such a movement, but the fact is that the door IS now open.
We had our official introduction to the Academic Seminar Staff, Senior Faculty and Student Life. A program overview was also outlined. Our speakers then had their turn: CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash and Dr. Michael Genovese of Loyola Marymount U. were today’s guests.
As Bash came to the microphone, I felt excited to see someone on stage that I could instantly recognize. I found her candor to be authentic as she referred to topics such as objectivity and bias in the media, the McCain/Palin ticket–including the turning point in his campaign, and the differences of working “on the beat” for campaigns versus on the elite Capitol Hill. In regards to bias in the media and what seemed to be like preferential media time to Obama, Bash said that media did appear to do so but because of the demand from its audience. She stated that people in general like a new phenomenon such as Obama and because of the factor, the media appeared to give positive preferential treatment to Obama which in turn left Hillary Clinton sitting on the sidelines–just as Saturday Night Live captured in a skit portraying the two candidates in a CNN debate. Therefore, those that create scandal or controversy will seem to exude negativity from the media. Even this evening I keep hearing Bash saying, “Obama No-Drama and you can’t cover the Clinton’s without drama.”
I’m also looking forward to hearing Dr. Genovese return tomorrow. Just reading the introduction in his latest book made me appreciate how someone with his level of expertise can also stand back and recognize his own pompousness when suggesting a memo to an incoming president. Would his background in academia and research make his memo any better than my own? I’ll soon be finding this out as my own essay assignment is to write a memo to the incoming president.
By the way, the day wasn’t just filled with academic instruction and lecture. In fact, today’s seminar session was over by noon! We had a quick lunch, met with our faculty adviser, then boarded buses according to assigned group names. The groups were named after candidates from the 2008 election. I got placed in the Edwards group which had to make me laugh when I saw a picture of him and his “I’m so innocent” grin taped to the front window of the bus. Once my Edwards buddies and were seated, Bob our bus driver / tour guide showed us the sites of DC in a little under three hours. Why am I so exhausted? In that short period of time we made our way to and disembarked at the following:
- United States Marine Corps (“Iwo Jima”) Memorial
- Abraham Lincoln Memorial
- Vietnam Memorial
- Korean War Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- FDR Memorial
- Jefferson Memorial
Along the way Bob would point out places such as Arlington National Cemetery, the Watergate Hotel, the Kennedy Center, the George Washington Bridge, the Hay-Adams Hotel (the Obama’s current residence) and the U.S. Capitol (we couldn’t get any closer because apparently there’s some big special event this week ).
At the WWII Memorial, the VP’s motorcade drove by. Whether it was Cheney or Biden riding behind the dark glass was anyone’s guess, although I have convinced myself that it was Biden. I didn’t have a chance to get cold in the 28 degrees weather because I seemed to drop into powerwalk mode every time I stepped off the bus.
While some workers were busy aligning what looked like miles of port-o-potties in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the surrounding war memorials, others were busy constructing the platform where Obama will be standing when he gives his speech next Monday, a.k.a Martin Luther King Jr. Day. My roommate and I have decided to brave the weather and early morning hours amongst millions of others on that day to witness Obama’s pre-Inauguration speech. A speech which will be given in the very same place where King spoke, “I have a dream…” Gives me goosebumps to think about such an event.
As Bob told us goodnight and dropped us off at Union Station, I was thankful for not only being given this opportunity to be in DC for such a special inauguration (thank you UST!), but also for having the opportunity to witness and be a part of a transition of power from one party to another in such a manner like no other county does.
Pictured above: My roommate and I with the ginormous Abraham Lincoln
Note: More flikr photos to be posted soon. I maxed out my free account with pictures from today; therefore, I have upgraded to a larger account which will now include video and unlimited photos. Check back tomorrow!
UPDATE: It’s bad enough that our cable isn’t working in the apartment, but as I was working on today’s post the internet connection was lost. I’m now in the basement using a computer room that has limited access to the desktop computers. Thus, I can’t use my thumbdrive to upload pictures. Guess it’s going to be an early morning at Starbucks. Check back Wednesday for a post and pictures. Flikr pics will be loaded as well.