Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm going on a picnic and I am bringing a whole bunch of stuff that won't get through security(Aaron McKinney)

Wow, where do I begin? Today was the big day, I-day, or O-day, however you want to look at it. This morning started at 3:30 with an outside temperature of 26 degrees and a windchill factor that made your toes curl. We layered clothes upon clothes and set out for the METRO to catch one of the first trains towards the national mall and parade route. The first train was full to the brim and I began to worry that our morning would start with a long walk to the capitol. Fortunately the next train had space for us all and we were on our way to our inaugural experience. I knew it would be cold while we waited to get into the secure zone of the city but I had no clue what we were really in for. 
Around 6:30 or 7:00 we lost our first group members, and to a degree, I don't blame them. At times I truly believed my toes would snap off and my fingers would stop moving, but I refused to be this close to history and not witness it in person. I cannot explain in words what it was like to wait in line to get into the parade route area, or the masses of people present. Pictures might do the experience justice, but I seriously doubt it. Street after street was closed off and there were police, sheriffs, secret servicemen, and FBI agents everywhere. We couldn't take in any bags larger than your basic romantic novel or any liquids of any sort. That meant that all six of the water bottles I was carrying got thrown into the dumpster, and then we got a quick pat-down from TSA officers. After waiting in line for close to four hours we were inside the gateand our search for the perfect Obama viewing seat began. 
We decided to post up and set up shop at the corner of Constitution, and Pennsylvania where we could see both the capitol building, and the parade route. This is when the cold really set in. We sat down on the cold concrete which quickly drained any and all body warmth we had built up since the security check point. Erin P and I went for coffee or other hot beverages and the best we could come up with was hot soup. Everyone relished in this hot treat, (except Bryant because they don't have chicken finger flavored soup), and suddenly people were feeling a little more optimistic about hearing the inaugural address. 
Some forward thinking by some of the members of our group had produced a small FM radio with small speakers that we used to broadcast NPR's coverage of the inauguration right there on the side of the street. This was invaluable because we could not hear what was being said over the loud speakers on the mall. We huddled together in a circle for warmth and listened to the address on the small radio which was very popular amongst those around us as well. The address was shorter than expected, but definitely struck a cord. Im sure you heard it yourself so I won't bore you with the details, and after the address we settled in for a long wait to see the parade. Ted Kennedy had a seizure during the congressional luncheon, which set the parade behind, also spawning an impromptu dance party amongst our group using the speakers and various Ipods. We kept warm listening to the oldies and dancing like fools, but hey, the cops seemed to love it, and I think Jules and Autumn may have even got some digits. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Serving the Military (Sam Vogel)

Today we went to RFK Stadium for a service project. When we got to the stadium we were filed into a line to fill out a form and get in a new line. Once we got into the stadium, we were seated in the stadium for a debriefing. I have never been to anything surrounding a campaign before so it was a fun experience. I learned all of the Obama chants and even got to participate in a few. Seeing everyone so excited to do service for a good cause. 

When we got inside the tent, there were different snake like lines set up. We packed  necessities for the troops like tooth paste and tooth brushes, as well as extra "luxuries" like notebooks and cologne. Putting together these packages for the troops was a very rewarding experience. I really enjoyed being able to take part in something that was for a greater cause. Even though I hope that our troops come home soon, I felt good and I felt like it was necessary to help them from over here. 

Even though it was a great experience, I though that we were going to be packing more things for the troops than we actually did. They gave us big bags and we didn't even get to fill them half way. Regardless, I really enjoyed the experience. I also felt that the organization was VERY well organized. They organized thousands of people in many different stations amazingly. 

My favorite part of the service opportunity was being able to write letters to the troops. I felt that this helped me connect on a more personal level to the men and women serving our country that will receive these care packages. 

Together, Mercer University helped pack about 100 care packages for US troops! 

2,000,000 people and 5,000 portapotties. This could get ugly.(Aaron McKinney)

So I was sitting in my hotel room watching the free concert that was being held on the mall Sunday afternoon. I had no desire to battle the masses for a small standing spot to watch music stars sing but then it hit me that I would never have the chance to do this again. Quickly I showered, got dressed, and hit the METRO to go to the mall. I am so glad I did.
Sure enough there were a boatload of people on the mall, but everyone was happy. Smiles and clapping abounded as people snapped photos and sang songs. I was by myself for this little expedition so I decided that I would try to weasel my way as close as I could to the steps of the Lincoln memorial. After twenty minutes of walking and weaving I found myself next to the far end of the reflecting pools. It was about this time that Barack Obama finished his speech and then the song "This land is your land" was played on stage. Sure enough the song quickly spread through the audience and all of the 800,000 people started to sing along. It was amazing. People waving American flags, wearing American hats, and buttons sang the words to such a simple, yet meaningful song. The latin phrase, "E pluribis Unum" came to mind as I stood in the middle of this immense crowd. Out of many, come one, is what that latin phrase means, and this week it has been applied only to government. This was different though, because out of many, came one voice. One voice that sang above all the generators, the helicopter, and the sirens. All you could hear was the voices of 800,000 singing as one. I have never been more proud to be an American. 
Shortly there after, the crowd began to disperse and 800,000 people took to the streets. Traffic stopped, the METRO was in gridlock and the city seemed paralyzed as the crowd left. If this is any indication to how tomorrow will be, then wow. I had to walk about 11 blocks to get to Union station and catch the METRO to go meet up with my buddy Tyler Streit. We met up at Rhino's to watch the Eagle's game and unfortunately they lost. We had a good time though terrorizing the streets of Georgetown and after a long night I took a cab back to the hotel. As the inauguration quickly approaches I am anxious and hopeful. I hope that this turns out to be all I have expected and that Barack Obama's words will inspire a nation to continue working after all the hoopla is done.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Who needs exercise when you have mile-long escalators to run up?

No, but seriously. I brought tennis shoes and workout clothes, but I have not even thought about using them once. With all the walking we are doing, there is no need for excess exercise. We finished out our week of morning speakers. Most of them I found really interesting. For example Marc Pachter, the Director Emeritus of the National Portrait Gallery, was one of the speakers whom I paid close attention to. He went through a powerpoint of past presidents and their portraits, and then he explained little known facts about each of them. Some of classmates did not find him near as intriguing as I did. Two other speakers that I really liked were Cal Thomas who is a conservative and Bob Beckel who is a liberal. They write a column called "Common Ground" in which they try to find points of agreement in areas that are usually debated between conservatives and liberals. At first it was their personalities made me want to pay attention, but then I started to understand what they were speaking about and it was all the better. Another speaker whom I was impressed with was Dana Perino, Bush's press secretary. She came and answered questions for us during one of the two days that C-Span came to film some lives shows from UDC's auditorium. It was interesting to see her point of view on Bush compared with what is written about him by other media sources. We were also graced with presence of both Sam Donaldson and Ted Koppel, respected names in media that I have heard many times before. Their speeches were not as attention grabbing as I would have hoped, but the fact that they were there was enough for me. All in all the speakers were diverse and engaging. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to hear them and learn from them. I am not just saying this to be corny and cliche; I really am coming away with more than I came in with, and that is what I came to D.C. to do.
While our mornings were filled speakers, our afternoons were filled with site visits. Most of the sites were entertaining. I could have done without the Chinese embassy. On the other hand, the Canadian embassy and it's representative, Roy Norton, was fairly informative. I never realized Canada was so impressive. Another site I could have done without was the media watchdog group, Accuracy in Media. Even though this visit produced the most debate within our group, I found the speaker to be pretty hypcritical in the end. The Capitol tour was kind of underwhelming, but that is because we had a really great tour back during my senior year trip. On one of our days off, Autumn and I went to the National Gallery of Art. Personally, I love museums. The exhibits were so beautiful. I'm a sucker for French painters...Monet and Van Gough. Yesterday we went on my favorite visit yet, the Newseum (a museum about the news, clever right?) I found the museum absolutely fascinating. They have acquired so many pieces of history! For example, there was a piece of the Berlin wall as well as one of the death towers. There was the door from the Watergate break in and the most emotional piece, a scrap of metal from one of the Twin Towers. Watching the documentary the Newseum put together as well as seeing the front pages from around the world brought back so many emotions from that fateful day. This museum in particular was the highlight of the trip thus far. It kind of tied together everything we have learned thus far. As Tuesday draws near, the excitement is building and the city is filling up...I can't wait!!
OH YEAH! I forgot to mention that we saw the motorcade belonging to President-elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden!! They were on the way to the Supreme Court Building. The streets were all blocked off, and then the cops on motorcycles started coming followed by about ten black SUV's. One of the SUV's was filled with very heavily armed secret servicemen...totally badass!! That might have rivaled the Newseum on being the most thrilling site of the week :)

"Know thyself and Compensate" (Autumn)

I'm so grateful that i came on this trip. Mostly due to the fact that i discovered that i LOVE DC. Although i must keep in mind that Ive experienced DC in special circumstances. Not only am i here for the most historic inauguration of my lifetime but i have been given the chance to listen to some of the people who have influenced American politics and experienced American politics in monumental ways.

Overall i believe the speaker that i would love to hear more from the most was Steve Bell.
On Wednesday Bell spoke about Media Bias which was a great follow up to our, ahem, interesting experience at Accuracy in the Media the previous day. Just a little side comment on that.. WOW! that guy was ridiculous. i was so excited when he began speaking about his organization's wish for unbiased media. Which i took to be unbiased on BOTH sides, right AND left. Even my liberal-loving self was still optimistic about the organization when he said that they were a conservative organization (b/c that makes sense due to the liberal leaning of the media). However, i was quickly disappointed when i realized that AIM is not truly about making the media move toward unbiased-ness (so not a word). Instead AIM is a hypocritical organization that is simply attempting to sway media bias from the left to the far right. Which is crap. Total crap. They are completely false advertising themselves. I did, however, enjoy myself while at AIM b/c i was given the chance to show my disbelief and disapproval during the Q and A session :). OKAY, back to Bell. Bell brought up an interesting theory: that the media coverage of this election was not biased but merely one-sided. Of course there are more liberal journalist than conservative but perhaps the biased was not intended for the majority of journalist. Bell quoted an old professor of his saying "Know thyself and compensate". Bell presented the idea that the media needs to realize that they, being more liberal for the majority, prefer to cover liberal candidates. And thus they should compensate by making an effort to cover both sides. The Obama Phenomena made a great story : the little senator with a great accomplishment story. The fault of the one-sided coverage was not bias but instead was simply nature. Nature to cover someone with whom you agree with and with whom has such a tremendous story.

While i do believe that Bell's theory is somewhat optimistic and gives the media perhaps more credit than they deserve, i say what the heck. Ill buy it. And even though I am ,as i said before, a liberal-lovin liberal i would love to see the media move towards more unbiased coverage so that everyone has an equal chance... .AND so that conservatives have no reason to complain anymore( i couldnt resist! ) I guess i too need to heed the word of Mr. Bell's professor :) .

Selective Memory and other notions (Erin K. Patterson)

Hello again. Now that the seminar is over we all have time to breathe what little air is left by the multitudes of people everywhere. Looking back over the time we've had here there is one thing that sticks out to me as a splinter made of titanium in my foot.

We visited the Embassy of the People's Republic of China on a blistery Thursday with the 2 longest escalators I have ever run up and the longest windiest bridge in Washington DC. Once we got there we were ushered into the room where our presentation was, and dare I say it was beyond boring. The majority of us, I believe, fell asleep. I know I did. But for what parts I was able to stay out of a comatose state, I noticed some errors in the Minister Counselor Zhang Ping's PowerPoint. First of all he read the entire thing off the slides, and skipped a few as well. One of the slides in particular stuck out in mind. It stated that every U.S. administration has supported the One China Policy. This policy states that there is only one China and that island of Taiwan is a part of that China. Minister Counselor Ping gave this slide a millisecond before he moved on. The sparked a curiosity in me, because I had thought that the United States had officially recognized the country of Taiwan as its own entity. I've now found out that I was wrong. Yes I can be wrong. Though we have never officially recognized the Taiwanese, we have not said that Taiwan is a part of China. Twice has the Taiwanese President been invited to the United States. Since we trade a lot with both of these countries and our ties are very close the United States has seemingly taken a somewhat neutral stance on this issue. Perhaps that is why he skipped this slide.

He also gave the America-China relationship a beautiful lovely Bambi-cutesy glow. Did someone forget Korea? Remember its this little tiny "conflict" that lasted 3 years. The United States was on the side of the South Koreans and someone...now who was it.... was on the side of the North Koreans. Oh Yes. It was China. I watch M*A*S*H, I know China was there, I knew that even without the help of a wonderful sitcom. Funny how it wasn't mentioned...at all. As one can tell, this has really ticked me off. My Gramps was a parachute jumper in the 101st Airborne during the Korean Conflict. So I was personally offended by this lack of respect for the Americans and the Chinese soldiers that died to stop the fighting within Korea.
What also surprised me was that none of the students brought it up in the Q&A session after the PowerPoint. I didn't bring it up because I was ready to get out of there, but in hindsight I wish I had called China out on that.

After attempting to listen to the presentation, the realization on the limited press and the oppression in China is so profound in their media. It made me appreciate the free press we enjoy most of the time here. Can you imagine the Daily Show or the Colbert Report in the People's Republic of China. The country where they wouldn't let a little girl sing at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics because she wasn't "pretty" enough. I think that China is as obsessed with their image as a middle school girl. They can't stand to have anything negative to be said against them without retaliation. What a wonderful country we live in, where we can bash ourselves into a bloody pulp and be fine with it completely...almost always. There are limits for everything and everyone.

The Inauguration is technically tomorrow and the Metro is already insane. Sam and I visited Museums at the Smithsonian stop. By the time we both finished, we couldn't even get near the station there or at Federal Triangle. I cringe to imagine the chaos that will ensue on Tuesday. Hopefully we will all survived and not be trampled by tourists(more touristy than us) who don't know what in the heck they are doing.

Diversity? (Jessica Johnson)

Each of these millions of people has come to Washington to witness an "historic event" -- the inauguration of the first African American president. Because of this incredible shift in America's history, diversity has become a major topic of discussion, and I think people are beginning to realize how important it is. In addition, diversity doesn't just deal with race but must also include gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

One of the reasons diversity is so important is the fact that people with different backgrounds think, act, and respond to situation in different ways. Genovese admits this and uses FDR as an example. Because he faced such a significant challenge early in his life with polio, he was able to respond to the challenges faced as president much more calmly and efficiently than he might have otherwise. I think most of us are hoping that President-Elect Obama's obvious differences from past presidents will allow him to govern more effectively.

I realize that we were told at the beginning of the seminar to keep our minds open on the diversity question, realizing that there are many types of diversity. But after attending the entire seminar, I wasn't convinced. Out of the dozens of speakers, only a handful were not older, white, straight, able, and fairly rich men. During such an important moment of diversity in our country's history, it seems imperative to have a diverse group of people give us their perspectives on the presidency, the media, and what Obama will bring. Political Science as a field of study has been dominated by white men, and it is time to realize that there might be different, perhaps better, theories about the way government works coming from others with different backgrounds and challenges. Honestly, I was sincerely disappointed with the lack of diversity in The Washington Center's programming.