Sunday, January 11, 2009

Aaron McKinney

As our group crests the steps exiting the METRO station, I realize how Charlie Buckett must have felt when he opened up his Wonka-Bar to find the infamous golden ticket. Only my adventure will be no chocolate factory tour, but rather a tour of the American political wheelhouse. 
Our tour started today as we traveled to the conference center to attend orientation and our first sessions of the seminar. We sought refuge in the front rows of the auditorium and after a few brief introductions, some ground rules, and an ice-breaker activity that included rousing renditions of the national anthem and impersonations of Sarah Palin, we were immersed into a unique academic environment. 
Steve Bell, the faculty director of the seminar, started our morning with his analysis of the media and how it has effected the recent election. He utilized a multimedia presentation that contained everything from one of Barack Obama's primary speeches, to SNL clips pulled from Youtube. He seemed like he was just getting started with his lecture on media bias when he abruptly stopped to introduce Dana Bash, the senior congressional correspondent for CNN.(Which ironically enough proclaims itself to be the nations most unbiased network.) 
After listening to her interesting anecdotes about life on the road with senator McCain during the recent election, she graciously took questions from the audience of which there was a plethora to be had. For close to thirty minutes or more she answered students questions that ranged from whether or not she felt Sarah Palin hurt the McCain camp, to how she feels about the persona politicians seem to carry on camera and if they are different when the cameras go off. It was enlightening to listen to a reporter talk very openly about her professional experience, and was one of my favorite parts of the day.
After Dana Bash left the stage the Seminar's resident scholar, Dr. Michael A. Genovese, took the stage and completely stole my undivided attention with his presidential trivia. Of course what followed was a lecture that began to showcase the ideas behind his book, Memo to a New President. His lecture was amazingly interesting to me and he began to outline how the presidency has evolved from, "a glorified chief clerk responsible for protecting the constitution, to the centerpiece of power in our system of separated powers." 
As he continued his lecture my mind began to beg the question, "Why has such a shift in the meaning of the presidency occurred?" I pondered this thought for a moment and was reminded of what Andrew J. Bacevich wrote in The Limits of Power, about the shortcomings of George H.W. Bush as a statesman. Perhaps the presidency evolved as it has because we the people have elected politicians, who aim to advance their own political agenda, rather than statesmen who aim to protect the constitution and the liberties it grants to the people of the greatest nation on the planet. To illustrate you need go no further than the state of Illinois, home to one of the greatest statesmen the country has ever known, one Mr. Abe Lincoln, who protected our constitution through one of the darkest times this country has ever seen. The state is now rifled with the scandal of a corrupt politician, governor Blagojevich, who sought to barter Obama's vacant senate seat to benefit his goals, his agenda.
The good news about this is there is hope for the American people once more. As the Unites States first African American takes office on January 20th, American's hope that he too can protect our constitution through dark and turbulent times. Only time will tell if Obama is to be deemed a statesman or a politician, but with his emphasis on service, and his promise to bring change to our nation, one can only hope.
Tomorrow, as I continue my magical tour with my golden ticket and experience all the wonders that DC has to offer I hope that the snozberries taste like snozberries, and that maybe, just maybe I'll get to meet Mr. Wonka.

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