Monday, January 12, 2009

The First Days in DC (Tory Johnson)

I don't know how a person can describe Washington, DC without actually experiencing the city. Thrilled to be in the nation's capital, a group of us went out to the mall the first day we got here (despite the rain). While we didn't do much, I felt completely overwhelmed by the majestic surroundings, from the Smithsonian museums to the Washington Monument (pretty much visible from anywhere in the district). I feel like our educational experience here in Washington began that day, even before we went to our first session at The Washington Center the next morning. Just standing in DC feels like you are a part of history (and all of the signs around the city telling us that we will be "witnesses to history" next Tuesday emphasized this feeling).

But the next morning came as a rude awakening. After an extremely busy day, we woke up around six o'clock so that we could get on the Metro and make it to the University of DC in time for the morning session.

In this session, we were introduced to Steve Bell, the faculty director for the Presidential Inaugruation Seminar. I was most intrigued by him. His time talking to us was short, but extremely entertaining and interesting. He talked about the role of the media this election season, showing video clips as examples of his statements. For example, he illustrated Barack Obama's effectiveness of manipulating the media by showing a clip of his victory speech in Arizona during primary season. Behind him, a woman is crying, truly inspired by his words. Even though I definitely did have a moment of pride while watching the clip (goodness, he's an amazing orator!), I recognized just how much of an affect the media had on the emotions that I felt (and still feel). I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more from Bell.

Then, Dana Bash, Senior Congressional Correspondent for CNN, spoke to us. Another amazing speaker, she gave insight into her relationship with the Senators and Representatives in Congress as well as her work on the campaign trail with Senator McCain. The Q&A session with her was great. People asked really intelligent questions, and I felt like I could relate to her. Because I want to work backstage for theatre one day, I actually was extremely fascinated with her work behind the scenes of the media. She helped plant the seed for the idea of possibly working behind the scenes for news programs. I feel like this path would be a more useful way to spend my life: reporting to the public about matters that truly affect them and doing my best to let the citizens of the U.S. know more about the world in which they live. I don't know if I can escape my passion for theatre, though.

Finally, we heard from Michael Genovese, the author of our textbook. While I agreed with most of his opinions, I had a hard time connecting with him. Giving a brief insight into the changes that have occured over the years concerning the content of inaugural addresses as well as the humongous amount of pressure that Barack Obama must feel because of the extremely high expectations for a great inaugural speech, I felt more eager for Tuesday to come. I want to witness Obama's attempt to speak to the people. While the topic of Genovese's talk brought me eagerness to witness history, I still feel that I have a lot to learn from him.

That afternoon, we went on a bus tour of Washington and hit some of the major tourist sites (Lincoln Memorial, Iwo Jima, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, etc.). While I was extremely excited to see all of these sites and take a hundred pictures (literally), I felt too rushed to see everything. I feel like I missed the opportunity to really appreciate everything. I think I could spend a whole day just sitting at the World War II Memorial and thinking (even in the freezing cold weather). And at the Vietnam Memorial, I started reading the names on the wall and kind of creating a story about each person in my mind, and then I wondered who they really were. But since this was a bus tour, I had to get through everything quickly. I wish I could just have a week with no schedule to go to every place and just absorb everything. I think this would be more useful to me. This is a great city!

Today was just as eventful and fun. It's getting late right now, however, so I'll post about today's events a little later. I need to get some sleep now. I'm sure I will not enjoy the sound of my alarm clock in just a mere six hours...

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