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.

The Media's Influence (Tory Johnson)

I don't think I've ever really thought about "the liberal media" as much as I have this week. A majority of the speakers that we heard this week all had something to say about bias in the media. Our site visit to Accuracy in Media (AIM) clearly believes that the liberal media is ever-present and a strong influence on the American public. Their goal came across as fighting the liberal media with the conservative viewpoints of the issues (nevermind the stories that are clearly conservative). Steve Bell, our faculty director, spoke to the fact that Obama had more positive coverage than McCain did during the election season. He showed us video clips of the treatment each candidate received on morning talk shows like The View. The panelists on this show really threw hard questions McCain's way while on their show, yet they talked more about Obama's rockstar persona when interviewing Barack Obama. Does the media's positive attention on Barack Obama present a problem for understanding this candidate? Is Obama's extreme popularity due to his message of hope an obstacle he must overcome? I'm afraid it is.

I am inspired by Barack Obama. I feel that if anyone can change the way our country relates with the rest of the world and can protect the American people by working to provide healthcare for everyone as well as a quality education, he can do it. However, I worry. America is extremely energized. They've witnessed Obama's charismatic speeches, his positive media coverage, and his emphasized message for change, and they are ready to rally behind him. Expectations are high, and I'm worried. Change is not going to come quickly. I fear that the energy of the public will quickly die down and become frustration and criticism of Obama as he begins his work as the President. I do not think that we can expect much progress quickly. As Dana Perino said, the First 100 days deadline is false. Because our government is set up as a checks and balances kind of system, cooperation between the executive and legistlative branches is key in bringing the change we need. Sam Donaldson cautioned our audience, telling us not to expect everything to get fixed soon. I just wish that the entire American public could understand the obstacles facing Obama and his administration as far as bringing change quickly to the world. We cannot be too emotional in our support for Obama. We also have to be critical and logical. I fear that the media have not emphasized this point enough. Maybe the media have focused too much on Obama's positive attitude. One girl in a Q&A session asked if our optimism is a problem. As much as I wanted to say, "No!", I couldn't. Optimism is great, yes, but without the complete understanding of the issues and the obstacles that lay ahead, optimism is a false sense of hope. We need to have hope but also have patience. If the media can focus on this now instead of Obama's rockstar image, I feel that we really can make progress in the world.

Problem or Solution (Bryant Harden)

Michael Genovese, author of Memo to a New President, spoke to us on the 15th about if the President is the solution or the problem.

How many monuments and action figures are there of Presidents?

How many monuments and action figures are there of members of Congress?

How many monuments and action figures are there of Justices?

I don't know the exact numbers to the above questions but I've visited the Presidential monuments and I have a Ronald Reagan action figure that speaks his words. Genovese asked these questions to prove that the Presidency has turned into the biggest celebrity.

The United Stated of America's founders wanted to get away from the divine right of kings and take a step towards the divine right of people. But as Genovese put it, "The American Presidency which was limited at first has become an elected king."

This would be opposed by the founders because as Genovese said most of the declaration was bashing of the king and the framers were anti-executive. The main concern was protecting peoples liberty but this limited view of the President has been growing larger and larger over the years.

Alexander Hamilton presented a defense for a powerful executive in Federalist when he wrote for the need of “energy in the executive” that it is “essential to the protection…against foreign attacks.”*

Genovese is obviously right in that executive power has increased over the years and when it has there has been a crisis. He brought up President Bush and his stepping over the boundaries of the President.

The Q&A session came and I jumped up, surprisingly first in line, and asked, "If, as your claim, President Bush overstepped his presidential powers, why didn't the congress and the courts pull back on his extra constitutional powers."

His answer was that the Courts did their job whereas Congress failed because they didn't stand up for their institution. He blames Congress 1st and the people 2nd. The last President to ask Congress for a declaration of war was FDR and we have had 4-6 conflicts since then in which Presidents haven't asked for that declaration.

Congress should stand up and challenge every President. They shouldn't enable or disable but challenge because ultimately the President should serve the Constitution. That's what he takes an oath to do.

I did not vote for President-elect Obama, but I commend him on his balanced approach after winning the election. This goes along with his 50 state strategy which shows he not only wanted to win but he wants to govern!
The President should protect our country and although some people say Presidents are the problem, I believe that most Presidents act with the information they are given and in the best interests of the people (but they should follow the Constitution)
And let's not forget my potato from the first day...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Genovese (Sam Vogel)

So I finally finished Memo to a New President!!!! WOOT! During the first section of the book I felt like Genovese was arrogant and I wasn't looking forward to the rest of the book. However, I really enjoyed the second part of the book. I think that Michael Genovese organized the layout very well (unlike the organization of TWC). In the "Self" section, Genovese made points towards being a good President that I felt Obama already has. Barak Obama has personality traits that Genovese described as Presidential musts. Among these include "painting a picture with words," a skill that Obama has under his belt (101). He also mentions being "handsome, poised, witty, and self-assured,) more characteristics Barak Obama already possesses. 

Even thought I like parts of Genovese's book, I did not agree with certain comments he makes. He suggest, "don't be yourself." While not being yourself may be a quicker ticket to success, the American people want their President to be a person they know, not someone who is fake. 

My favorite part of the book was the chapter called "The Paradoxes of the American Presidency." I thought it was really interesting to read about all of paradoxes that the American public expect from a President. Although I liked the book, I was annoyed that he stuck arrogant and cocky comments throughout. After seeing him speak in person I feel like his personality comes out in his book more than I thought.

Service (Charles)


hey y'all...i signed up for this at the 2-3 time slot. take a look and see what you think...we might all be able to get in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SORRY (Sam Vogel)

Wow that text was really super big! Sorry bout that!

Four days and counting (Sam Vogel)

Even though it is four degrees outside I am somehow managing to get through each long day! Each new day seems to become more and more interesting.

One of my favorite speakers so far has been Dana Bash, senior congressional correspondent for CNN. I felt she had a very intelligent insight into the media and how it affects political personalities, and especially how it affected the election of Barak Obama into the presidential office. I agreed with most of the ideas she discussed such as the idea that Obama had an advantage over Hillary in the primaries because of his positively portrayed media image. She made it clear that McCain had communication issues, whereas Obama thrived in a communicative setting.

While I agreed with most everything that Dana Bash said, I was sometimes confused at her comments and disagreed with other ones. Towards the beginning of her speech, she made the comment that Obama and McCain are more similar than they seem. Even though I wasn’t a senior correspondent for the campaign, I did not see this. To me, the too candidates were alike in very few ways. She also stated that McCain had a lot of charm. While I don’t deny the possibility of McCain having a charming personality, it seems silly to call him charming when compared to Obama. Again, I was not next to McCain for the entire election and she was, however my views through the media do not seem to think its reasonable to pick McCain as the more charming candidate. Overall, however, I really enjoyed Dana’s presentation and I think her job sounds very interesting and full of fun.

After our site visit to the Canadian Embassy yesterday, we decided to go to the National Archives. As we were crossing the street, local police were preparing for a motorcade. We waited for a while and finally the motorcade began. After many motorcycles and police SUV’s we saw an African American waving hand out of one of the SUV’s. Of course our conviction is that this was Barak Obama!

I hope to brave the even colder weather tomorrow as the temperature gets down to 0 degrees!!!!! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abigail Foy *Yesterday since I posted after 12

The days just seem to get colder and colder. Each day continues to start off with lectures at the University of Washington, D.C. It has been a great accomplishment the past two morning that Autum, Julia and I have made it to the University without getting on the wrong Metro....we seem to be getting the hang of things.

This morning in particular was extremely interesting because we were able to listen to and do a Q&A with George Bush's Press Secretary, Dana Perino. She was extremely honest with our audience and was very informative when questions were asked about the Bush administration and their choices and actions that were shown through the press.

The Canadian Embassy was also a highlight of today although our speaker, Roy Norton who is a Minister (Congressional, Public & Intergovernmental Affairs) for the Embassy. He gave us and incredible insight into what Canada thinks about the US and our policies on anything from our form of government to our different health care programs.

Some of us also visited the US Archive Museums and got to go through a couple of exhibts that includeds the orignal Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta and Bill of Rights, along with many others.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hypocrites in the flesh(Aaron McKinney)

Wow what a long day. Of course our day started at the UDC with a short lecture from Steve Bell. After Professor Bell finished his gig we engaged in a live broadcast of Washington Journal Live. This program consisted of questions from the host, nation-wide callers, and the student audience. I was sure to call my family to let them know I could possibly be on national television but to also let them gain a small glimpse into what I am really doing with my time in DC. 
Directly following an hour segment of live broadcast, the CEO of C-SPAN took the stage with Mr. and Mrs Tom Wheeler. Both individuals worked very diligently with the Obama campaign and came to share their thoughts with us. This segment was not aired live, but was recorded to be shown on a later date. Mr. and Mrs Wheeler were very informative and very receptive to not only answering questions from the audience but speaking with students after they left the stage. I found this most impressive because Brett Behr left immediately after his segment ended, taking no extra questions, and no extra time with students in the audience. 
After the hour long segment with Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, Mr. Brian Lamb took the stage to ask students questions about what they see as solutions to our countries large challenges ahead. This went very well, and I was extremely interested in what my peers had to say in regards to fixing this great nation. 
We broke for lunch at Potbelly's, which was delicious, and then headed for the Accuracy in Media Inc. suite in an office building not far from the UDC. Charles has pretty much nailed how this situation went, but I would like to add that this man, who professes himself as a media watchdog, is the biggest hypocrite I have ever met. His answers to questions sometimes contradicted the answer he gave to the previous question, which made it very frustrating to retrieve any real benefit from the program. Overall the entire group felt like our speaker was a hypocrite, even the students from Layola Merrimont University in LA agreed that the logic behind his answers was flawed and that we had just lost an hour and a half of our lives we would never get back. 
Following the hypocrites anonymous meeting we walked to the white house to see the parade stands, and mess with the rookie secret service agent whose poor job is to stand in the middle of Pennsylvania Ave and watch people. I am positive that the Obama team has a very specific, yet open parade route so that President-elect Obama can walk by us, the American people, all the while protected by lots and lots of bullet proof glass. Our evening ended with a reception at the chamber of commerce where Bob Schieffer was the keynote speaker. Once again the lack of organization from the Washington Center limited our ability to fully enjoy the message that Mr. Shieffer had to convey, but after some food and debate we all decided to turn in early for the night. 
Thus here I am writing about our day while eating the rest of my chicken salad sandwich from Potbelly's. I hope tomorrow is shorter than today and that I don't have to listen to another huge hypocrite speak his nonsense to me. With a line up consisting of Brian Lamb, Ted Coppel and Steve Bell, I expect tomorrow to be stupendous. 

How The New York Times is destroying the nation, with no help from Fox News (Charles)

"Accuracy In Media is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage. We encourage members of the media to report the news fairly and objectively--without resorting to bias or partisanship...By advising them of their responsibility to the public, whom they claim to serve, AIM helps to nudge the members of the news media into greater accountability for their actions."

Does anything in that mission statement tell you that Accuracy In Media is really a right-wing organization concerned only with promoting conservative news stories, even at the expense of truly fair media?

This afternoon, we made a site visit to Accuracy In Media, which bills itself as a media watchdog group. AIM's executive secretary, Roger Aronoff gave us a presentation about the organization's history and purpose. According to him, AIM exists to promote an un-biased media. They follow the major news organizations' coverage and do fact checking to ensure that the stories are as accurate as possible. They also stay on the lookout for bias on a grander scale--overtly positive or negative coverage of certain candidates, excessive time given to some issues over others, or a general loss of objectivity. This all sounds pretty straightforward. After all, one of the foundations of democracy is an informed citizenry, and the media plays an important part in achieving that goal.

However, as Aronoff's talk wore on, it became clear that Accuracy in Media was in fact biased in their search for bias. In other words, they were wildly hypocritical. He spent quite some time discussing the leftward tilt of MSNBC with nary a mention of Fox News Channel. He was extremely concerned with the proliferation of coverage of Barack Obama over John McCain, but didn't seem to mind that Joe Biden was essentially ignored at the expense of Sarah Palin. Media reports that President Bush invaded Iraq under false pretenses were out of line, but stories that President Clinton's bombing of Baghdad in 1998 was designed to be a distraction from his impeachment trial were fair game. He asserted that the "liberal mainstream media" could have cost John McCain as much as 20 points in the 2008 election. Note that Barack Obama won the election by 7 points. So McCain would have won by 13 without the media distorting everything? Unlikely.

I don't have a problem with AIM promoting conservative causes through media intervention. They just shouldn't have "accuracy" in their name. Nor should they act as if they are oh-so-offended by the idea of bias in the news. They are fine with bias so long as it benefits their preferred candidates and causes.

Before I had quite realized how in the tank the organization was for the right, I asked a question about how they define a news story as positive or negative. For instance, I had read a study recently that flagged articles with assertions such as "Some conservatives believe that Sarah Palin hurt the Republican ticket" and "Barack Obama ran an extremely effective grassroots campaign" as pro-Obama stories. To me, neither of these show bias. I asked Aronoff how they qualify stories in which the facts seem biased and offered the example that Obama ran a better political campaign than McCain did, regardless of how you feel about their respective ideologies. He went off on a tangent about Obama's campaign finance and his relationship with William Ayers. Later, the Quinnipiac professor at the session tried again by asking how they would asses stories on global warming--some 90% of scientists believe that it is a man-made and dangerous phenomenon, so should journalists be required to present the remaining 10% as an equal opponent? Aronhoff pronounced AIM as "global warming skeptics" and went on to talk about why that was the case. This was too much for me. How on earth could they claim to mediate fair and balanced coverage when they were clearly supportive of a certain position? I asked, and he said they make no effort to remove their biases. Anyone who disagrees with them is biased; anyone who agrees is not. Autumn asked if they even bother to investigate the conservative bastion Fox News. He said yes--if Fox ran a story that seemed pro-global warming, then they would be all over it.

What a crock of shit.

If Accuracy In Media wants to purport themselves as a media watchdog (a truly noble mission), they need to get rid of their own biases. Until that point, they will lack credibility except as a minion of the radical right which exists only to silence critics of their politics.

Adventures in D.C. (Erin K. Patterson)

I have never blogged in my life so this will be quite interesting for some of you and painful for others. This program so far has been an amazing experience, and to be able to be here during Inauguration week is phenomenal. We have had speakers from different media outlets such as Dana Bash, Bob Beckel, Cal Thomas, Brian Lamb, and the rest of the C-SPAN crew. The Secret Service and the Smithsonian have also spoken to us. Of all the days so far, today is the best example of a fantastic day and a terribly boring today. It started off as most mornings here....early. Insanely early, like 5:45 early. We leave from our Hotel in Rosslyn and make our way to the UDC auditorium. Today of all the days we are here was special, we were going to be on live television today. C-SPAN broadcasted Washington Journal Live right there in front of us. It was just cool. There are no other adjectives to describe it. Watching something in person that you know that others watch religiously in their homes across the nation is pretty darn cool. Washington Journal Live was fascinating to me. His guests were NPR speaker Juan Williams and Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier. They talked about the transition of power that will be taking place and the things that they thought should/might happen. The closing of Gitmo was on the list along with reformation healthcare's structure, assisting the economy with a new stimulus plan, and more education reform, which is desperately needed in this country.

Education is an issue that I have found is near and dear to my heart, and I just realized while we were eating lunch at Pizza Kitchen Sunday afternoon. Dr. Domin asked us to try and think of one success and one failure of the Bush Administration without involving Iraq. No Child Left Behind was what came into my head. I am no expert on No Child Left Behind these are only the thoughts of what I recall of it. I remembered the impact that it had on my small rural community. Our teachers were under so much pressure that they couldn't do there jobs. More focus was given to the ones that couldn't catch up than to the entire class. Not that its a bad thing to make sure everyone understands before moving on to the next subject. But when staying behind causes other children, especially gifted children to miss out on aspects of the education deserved, something has gone terribly wrong. To say that my high school always had their students had their best interests at heart would be fallacy after my sophomore year. They did however make sure most of us passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test. Passing that test would satisfy the Powers That Be for the State that gives us money temporarily. Its not that the concept of No Child Left Behind is a bad idea, but the consequences are so severe for the schools that can't make it up to standards for reasons of lacking funds or otherwise. I remember some of my teachers complaining about No Child Left Behind and the inhibitions it gave to their teaching. These are not the teachers that had anything to worry about. These are some of the best teachers I've ever had. So our education definitely needs to be near the top of President Elect Obama's priorities.

While they addressed these issues the guests on Washington Journal took questions from some of the students attending this seminar with the Washington Center. The students had some good thought provoking questions. I was impressed to say the least with the thought that goes into the questions asked. There were questions about Energy, the stimulus plan, the influence of media on the Congress to name a few. It was a great session to listen to.

After the Washington Journal, Brian Lamb came on with his Q&A segment with the Wheeler's. The Wheeler's are among other things major supporters of Obama, and helped him out in the Region 2 of Iowa, which we heard ALOT about. They weren't that fascinating and didn't have many answers to the appropriate questions asked by the students. arghh....uselessness. The final segment of the day was ab-sol-frickin-lutely fantabulous!!!! The students at the microphone were asked questions by Brian Lamb about their opinions on issues, what they thought, future plans, and impressions of the seminar. It was great listening to what people had to say, and to hear their convictions behind it. Just fantastic.

Our site visit today was at Accuracy in Media. oh the things that can be said. It was established in 1969 by Reed Irvine as the first media watchdog, and it was made clear right off that they were conservative. Honestly my mind absorbed the information, but didn't comprehend as my mind was almost in a state of comatose. I was bored out of my mind and ended up doodling so I would stay awake. But from what I gathered from my coherent notes, memory and fellow Mercerians, Accuracy in Media is a watchdog for liberal bias almost exclusively. They fight bias with their own bias, and didn't define what the bias was in the first place. AIM was good at skirting questions and coming up with unsatisfactory answers that brings up the question of their cognitive function.

This evening was especially exciting. We had a reception at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, such a beautiful building, and Bob Schieffer was the Guest of Honor. Talk about excitement. He was a great speaker and knew exactly what he was talking about. It was disappointing however that many of the students in the large reception room refused to be quiet. Ridiculuousness and Rudeness all in one. Other than that and the coat room fiasco the night went very well.

I have enjoyed this trip to Washington D.C. so very much and cannot wait for the rest of the week to follow.

Uncommon Ground (Charles)

Yesterday, the morning session opened with Special Agent David O'Connor of the United States Secret Service. For whatever reason, I was really interested in what he was going to say (perhaps it was the teenager in me being excited about espionage and danger). From what he told us, he has had a fascinating career. He protected Al Gore during his 1988 Presidential campaign, Pat Buchanan in 1992, and President Clinton in 1996 as part of his work on the First Family's detail. He gave us some details about the preparation for the Inauguration, but nothing earth-shattering. Perhaps this was because of the sensitivity of the issue; perhaps there is just nothing all that interesting about agent positions and crowd control. At any rate, it was a somewhat underwhelming performance.

On the other hand, Marc Pachter of the National Portrait Galley gave a fascinating presentation on the history of the Presidency and the use of imagery to define the Commander-in-Chief. He made his way through the Presidential portraits collection and enlightened us as to each portrait's significance. For instance, George Washington is dressed as a casual civilian in his portrait, showing his disdain for the trappings for royalty. Lyndon Johnson so hated his portrait that he had it banned from the White House. Pachter made the very interesting point that, rather than being an unnecessary distraction, the public's perception of the sitting President is a very important tool in governance. In 2008's post-election analysis, some media types have said that Obama's use of imagery somehow cheapened his campaign--Pachter would strongly disagree, saying that a politician's image is closely tied to how he or she will govern.

The last event of the day was titled "Common Ground." It was a travelling dog and pony show featuring the conservative Cal Thomas and the more progressive Bob Beckel. The two clearly had a good rapport with one another, and were very entertaining to watch. And that's about all I got out of the presentation. Basically, they wanted to change the culture of Washington by having people on all sides of various issues sit down and discuss things in a cordial manner. They said that this would lead to respect for both sides of an argument and allow politicians to have pleasant working relationships with one another. Fine. I think that is an admirable goal. However, Thomas and Beckel seemed to think that it would be the solution to all of our nation's problems. Their line of thinking was this: if you don't see your opponent as the enemy, you are more likely to be able to find some common ground and a compromise solution that works. Right. So just because I don't hate someone means that I will be able to agree with them?

The two pundits offered the example of the Obama's economic stimulus package. Republicans want tax cuts; Democrats want government spending. If you give them both a little of each (with the Democrats getting more--they are, after all, in the majority), then everyone wins. In gigantic legislation such as the stimulus, this is a perfectly valid solution. However, on more specific issues, there is less room to compromise, and to do so threatens the integrity of the argument. For instance, people against abortion believe that it is tantamount to the murder of an innocent child. No matter how many restrictions that pro-choice legislators offer as a way of compromise, no matter how much education, contraception, or adoption is put forward, the point still stands--it is murder. Where is the so-called "common ground"?

The same holds true on the other side of the aisle. Liberals who believe that the war in Iraq was illegal, badly managed, and an across the board violation of both Presidential power and human rights want the troops to come home. Now. Timetables, peacekeeping forces...these concessions by the right (or even the center-left) mean nothing. The soldiers should come home and President Bush should be held accountable for sending them in the first place. How can we expect them to compromise?

Supporters of gay rights believe that homosexuals will always be second-class citizens until they are afforded full marriage rights, protected from hate crimes and employment discrimination, and allowed to serve openly in the military. Civil unions are not enough. Local and state protections are not enough. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not enough. What is compromise worth if it requires selling out your principles?

Thomas and Beckel contended that the American people want nothing more than solutions to their problems that work. No. Americans are smarter than that. We want solutions to our problems that are right. And of course, we all have different visions of what is right. I whole-heartedly agree that decreasing the level of animosity in our federal government will make it run smoother. But I do not concede that compromise is always a good thing. Politics should be about getting what you (or your constituents) want. Not for selfish reasons, but because you truly believe that it is right for the country.

All Eyes on D.C. (Jessica Johnson)

What is there to say that hasn't already been said?

Other than a few organizational and logistics problems, the Washington Center's seminar has been extremely well done. They have gone to a lot of trouble finding the best and most entertaining speakers available, from former "Good Morning, America" host Steve Bell, to CNN's congressional correspondent who covered the McCain campaign Dana Bash, to Secret Service Agent David O'Connor, giving us a broad range of perspectives on the inauguration and the presidency as an institution. We've discussed the way physical appearance can shape public opinion, where and how the president gets his power, and whether the media and its alleged liberal bias gave Obama an unfair advantage.

But my favorite question so far was posed by Brian Lamb of C-SPAN: "What are your expectations for an Obama administration?" I think those of us who bought into Obama's message of hope and change, who spouted the phrase "Yes, We Can," throughout the campaign (even though I am still fully behind him and believe in the message) have realized that just getting Obama elected isn't enough. Washington and our system of government are dedicated to long-standing traditions and limitations set up by the Constitution. It's easy to say that I wish Obama could unilaterally implement his policies now that my views are being represented in the White House. It's much more difficult to have faith in the slow, deliberative process that is Congress, especially when it could ruin everything I've hoped for. But I will strive to uphold what I know are strong American principles while still advocating and hoping for change.

What has interested me most in this city, however, has nothing to do with the seminar. Our time spent traveling and our free time have allowed me to see how people, organizations, businesses, and the city as a whole are reacting to the upcoming inauguration. The city is obviously spending an incredible amount of money to get ready--the construction, the security, the porta-potties (sp?)... It's an incredible thing to witness. Businesses, like IKEA, use Obama's mantras of "change" and "yes, we can" as advertisement slogans. And the people of D.C. know that the world's eyes are on their city and carry their pride everywhere they go. While the Founders wanted an executive as unlike a monarch as possible, our modern-day celebrations do seem to reflect a coronation--the possible king of the free world.

1/11/09 (Bryant Harden)

After a great trip up and an afternoon and evening to get settled, the seminars began. 6:00AM. The group met @ the METRO station and headed to the University of the District of Columbia.

The introduction was filled with rules and how we probably shouldn't go meet "friends" (take it however you want to).

Steve Bell, professor of telecommunications at Ball State University, started by speaking about media and the Presidency. As we all know, the media is very much apart of all elections and because of the 24/7 news channels, news on the internet, and blogs no one can hide from the news. Traditionally Presidential candidates would only appear on Sunday morning news shows because they were known to be a serious outlet, but during this election candidates were making appearances on shows such as The View, Leno, and Saturday Night Live. Mr. Bell also spoke about the "Obama-phenomenon" which is President-Elect Obama's ability to persuade people to feel what he feels and see what he feels. When Barack Obama would make a speech with his sleeves rolled up about Hope, somewhat preacher-like, his audience felt that emotion. As a Republican in a group that is filled with peers who are Democrats, I think Steve Bell is right. There is argument of if the media actually was biased in favor of Obama or if Obama's charismatic nature somewhat forced them to lean that way, but regardless the media does play a major role in politics and McCain was not the only candidate that felt pressure. Mr. Bell showed a clip that was off of Saturday Night Live in which a debate is taking place between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton and after a question being directed towards Obama the "anchor" said something to the effect that no one could possibly have a better answer that Obama. (more on this later)

The next speaker was Dana Bash, a Senior Congressional Correspondent for CNN, whose lesson was titled "From the Campaign Trail to the Newsroom". Ms. Bash traveled around with John McCain from the very beginning and saw that New Hampshire was the resurrection of John McCain. But the drama on the left made it seem as if McCain was being ignored, if you will. She described McCain's town hall meetings as his shining moments. He would take a question from anyone on any subject and have a conversation with them. His humerus side was very apparent and he was comfortable meeting new people who had questions dealing with their concerns. Not only is Bash the Congressional Correspondent now, she was also a White House Correspondent. So obviously she had a few things to say about President George W. Bush. "This may not be popular here", but Bush was different when the lights were on. When they were off he was casual and articulate; a talkaholic. She said that he transformed into an "issue-guru" while she was talking to him. She then went on to say that McCain's career had been about him being approachable and his straight talk but after he won the Republican nomination his Senior Political Advisers pushed him to be more "standoffish". During the election some people brought up that McCain was a racist but Bash combats when she said that McCain does not have a racist bone in his body! Her example was how he was in the military which back then was one of the only integrated area in the country. She then brought up some points of why McCain lost. He was not an effective speaker and seemed incomparable to Barack Obama. And also at the beginning Sarah Palin was a huge boost for the core of the Republican party, but it actually seemed to hurt him with Independents and women. I though Dana Bash did a great job in analyzing some of McCain's mistakes and after hearing hit after hit on the Republicans and cheers from the crowd after each one it was great to hear her nice comments from personal situations with George W. Bush.

Next was Dr. Michael A. Genovese of Loyola Marymount University on The Peaceful Transition of Power. Dr. Genovese quoted Abraham Lincoln saying that a ballot is stronger than the bullet (although not the case for Lincoln himself, which lightened the crowd a bit). He also pointed out the historical aspect of this Inauguration because Obama is an African-American, but another interesting point is that Michelle Obama is a great-great-granddaughter to a slave; slaves built the White House and now the great-great-granddaughter of a slave will be occupying it! He also talked about how earlier Presidents spoke to the Constitution in the Inaugural Address but that there has been a change so that Presidents now speak to the people. I think this is a great change because the President works for the people and takes an oath to protect the Constitution of the people. Another interesting point is that this is the twenty-first time in the United States that there was been a peaceful transfer from one party to a different party in the executive branch. Also saying that George W. and Laura Bush have been very accommodating to the Obama's.

I think it is great that so many young people are taking part in the democratic process of the United States and no matter which candidate it was, they (we) are voting and getting deeply involved. I voted for McCain and I stand by that, but it is great to wake up everyday in the United States of America and have the opportunity to go to the University of D.C. and have the chance to ask questions and have our own beliefs.

Pictures - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=97313&l=19e3b&id=569265070

Monday, January 12, 2009

Escalefters and Souvenirs (Aaron McKinney)

I vividly remember the first time I came to DC and some rude guy in a business suit obnoxiously cleared his throat behind me and said, "On the left" as I stood on the escalator leaving the METRO. Mind you, I am from po-dunk NC where cops used to pull me over on Friday night to chat about the football game I just got done playing. Also previous to my first visit to DC the biggest city I had visited was Charlotte, NC and by visit I mean pick my grandmother up from the airport. I was completely unaware that it was humanly possible to pass someone on the escalator but sure enough in this city, it happens. A lot. 
What I have come to learn is that in this city, the social norm is to stand all the way to the right side of the escalator to allow those who wish to walk up it the room to do so. Failure to comply to this unwritten rule will get you nasty looks and an unfriendly, "excuse me". Well maybe not the "excuse me" part, but definitely nasty looks followed by some type of comment telling you to amscray. I noticed that on the METRO train there was an advertisement defining those of us that are unaware of this rule. It labels us as escalefters, and is defined as those who stand on the left in the way of those who are in a rush. 
Since educating myself about my misdeeds I have been sure to stay to the right but was positive that I would never be one of these people who walked up or down the escalator. That is until I rode the escalator at Rosslyn station about half a dozen times. To help you grasp the size of this monstrous escalator I have included a picture. Well sure enough I have become one of these escalator runners, not because I am late or in a rush, but after a riding escalators ten times a day it gets a bit tedious. 
Now I will step down from my soapbox and tell you what I really did today. It started with an excruciatingly cold shower, which did not help the fact that I wanted to go back to sleep. Once again we went to the UDC conference center, took solace in our front row seats, and started listening. First up was Dr. Genovese who lectured about the evolving role of the presidency, and who once again entertained us with presidential trivia. He spoke very briefly, only fifteen minutes or so, and then gave the microphone to special agent David J. O'Connor of the United States Secret Service. I would love to tell you what he told us, but if I do they will have to kill me. Overall it was very interesting to listen to him talk about his job and the role the secret service plays in protecting the life of our elected officials and that is really all I can say about his presentation because we have all been sworn to secrecy. 
Next came a riveting presentation from the Director Emeritus from the Smithsonian national portrait gallery, Mr. Marc Pachter. His presentation highlighted how the image of the presidents have been captured over the centuries and the lessons to be learned from these depictions. I am sad to say though that after fifteen minutes of dimmed the lights, and a monotone voice, I found myself nodding in and out of consciousness. (I attribute this to my cold shower and bad start of my day.) Once the lights were raised and Mr. Pachter had taken a few questions I found a second wind that would carry me well through the next presentation. 
Enter Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, columnists for USA Today, who do a piece called, "Common Ground". Cal Thomas is a right-wing uber conservative, while Mr. Beckel is quite the Liberal. The message behind their comedic rhetoric carried strong political messages and called to action the young people of America to stop polarizing themselves on the tough issues and work to find common ground. This was by far my favorite segment of the seminar thus far and wish their slot would have been longer. I easily could have listened to them for an hour more because what they had to say was so interesting that was even inspired to try and ask a question during the Q&A session. Unfortunately I was unable to and for now my question will remain unanswered. 
After the Q&A session we headed for Union Station for lunch which which was a little bit pricey. We recharged with some quick food and then made off for the capitol to blitz the offices of our representatives and senators to try and score some inaugural tickets. This ended to no avail because all of them were out of the office. With no tickets and saddened hearts we headed to the capitol building to talk a walking tour. The remnants of my $12 gyro had to be thrown away before I entered, along with some of the neat souvenirs other people had collected from their representatives. The tour of the capitol was interesting because I had never been before but fell way short of what I was expecting. We ended our evening with a trip to Chinatown to grab dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant and after gorging myself on Kung Pao chicken and shrimp the desire to do anything else that evening soon faded. 
We hit the METRO for our ride home and sure enough I found myself walking on the escalators, passing people on the left and saying, "excuse me". Dang it, I have been assimilated.  

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...

1/10/09 (yesterday) Abigail Foy

Despite the bone chilling cold, which made me almost want to kill myself, the first day of our trip went off without a hitch. The morning seminar required us to wake up by about 6 a.m., a time I have not seen in a while. However, once at the seminar I found myself entranced with interest in what the speakers had to say.

Our first speaker was Steve Bell, who had my full attention as he spoke on the topic of “The Media and The Presidency”. He spoke about how the media has been revolutionized and how the internet has affected the media in a way that figures in the media have less control over what goes out and who it goes out to. There is no longer a “caretaker’’ that censors the majority of what is released in the media.

The second speaker, the one I thought to be the most interesting, was Dana Bash, who is the Senior Whitehouse Correspondent for CNN. During the Presidential Campaign she was also assigned to the trail of John McCain. Her speaking was enticing but her Q&A was a personal insight to the McCain campaign that was a once and a lifetime experience.

After the seminars, which were attention-grabbing, but honestly seemed to go on forever, we went to an awesome little pizza place and then went on to go sightseeing. It was freezing cold!!! We went to see the Jefferson Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and a couple of others. They were all equally gorgeous and uniformly historically remarkable, and I had a great time taking numerous pictures.

When we finally returned to the hotel room I was completely exhausted and wrote my blog. I am just posting it because after I wrote it I passed out in my comfy bed at the Holiday Inn where we are staying.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1/11/09 (Autumn Turner)

Well today was the first day of the seminar. I must admit I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself during the lectures. The first speaker was Steve Bell who will be continue to speak throughout the program because he is our Faculty Director. I was FASCINATED by him. He seems as if hes been everywhere and seen everything. I believe I could sit and listen to him tell stories about his experiences for hours on end. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of Airforce 1 when he flew with all the Presidents to attend the Egyptian President's funeral.

Bell spoke today mainly about the revolution of media in politics and Obama's capitalism on new media sources. The development of 24-7 cable and news coverage did away with concentrated sources of information. This caused a loss of control of the news flow that reaches the public. Bell pointed out that ANYONE can make an impact with a simple touch of a keyboard.

Bell then spoke about how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both used nontraditional shows such as the View to reach people. This is proof of the revolution due to the fact that nontraditional shows were considered unsavory in earlier elections. Clinton used this to bypass the political process.

Bell closed with comments about his fascination with the Obama phenomena. He said that the only politician comparable to Obama was Kennedy but only after he was elected and possibly after his assassination . Obama was not an ordinary candidate. His ability to make people truly BELIEVE in him set him apart.

I must say I am truly looking forward to hearing more from Bell!

The next speaker was equally riveting. Dana Bash, senior congressional correspondent for CNN, captured my attention from Bell's introduction of her. I can easily see how she has became successful in the media field.

Bash mainly spoke about her experiences covering the 2008 election. She was assigned to follow the Republican candidates due to the fact that is was expected in the beginning to be the more controversial. Through her following of the "Amazing Race" she watched first hand McCain's transformation from Maverick to Structured Organizer.

She also was affording the chance to follow Obama on his first trip ever to Iowa. Bash found it fascinating how every single other politician was so completely overshadowed by the little known Illinois Senator.

Bash finished speaking about her love of working on Capital Hill as opposed to the White House. Access was her reason for this. Covering Congress affords her the opportunity to speak with Senators in a more personal manner due to the every-day setting.

Bash had my entire attention throughout her time on the podium. She even made the thought cross my mind about rethinking a career in the media side of politics. And then I reminded myself that I played her role in Dr. Domins Campaigns and Elections simulation last semester and the thought became brief and fleeting (haha).

Micheal Genovese was our final speaker. He is the author of the assigned reading for the program and the Scholar in Residence for the seminar. He easily caught my attention by providing us with fun trivia about DC and Presidents (and yes i DO find trivia fun!).

He then moved into speaking about the fact that the Presidential Inaugurations have developed into a celebration that is not truly constitutional. Ginovese pointed out that the framers were suspicious of pageantry.

Genovese used past Presidential inaugural addresses as proof of this transformation. The early presidents focused on fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law. Modern Presidents now focus on speaking to the PEOPLE rather than to the Constitution. The inauguration transitions display the country's transgression from a constitutional republic to a democracy.

I truly do look forward to hearing more insight from Genovese!

The second half of the day was EXTREMELY interesting to me. I am a tourist through and through. I love seeing sights, especially historic sights. We took a great bus tour to the main monuments and memorials around D.C. This is my first trip actually spending time in D.C. so it was my first at each of the stops.

We began at the Iwo Jima memorial which was one that i would not have thought to visit by myself but was glad we visited. The next stop was the Lincoln memorial which i was SO excited to see. There was alot of construction going on in preparation of the inauguration which was kind of neat to see. I took TONS of pictures at the Lincoln memorial. Our bus driver had told us that there was a misspelled word on the monument. I, however, failed to find it. From Lincoln we walked over to the Vietnam War and Korean War memorials which were astonishing. Its kind of a shock to actually look at all the names of the people who sacrificed their lives for us. (Jules and I took a really cool picture of our reflection in the wall) I did take alot of pics so hopefully soon i can get some of them up. The next stop was probably my favorite besides the Lincoln. It was the World War II memorial. it was BEAUTIFUL. I liked the representation of all the states and the countries that aided us. The last stop was the Jefferson memorial. By this time i was COMPLETELY frozen from head to toe so i made a quick stop but found it equally moving. Finally the tour ended with drive bys of the FDR memorial and the Capitol.

I loved sight seeing so this was definitely a fun day for me. The fact that i was FREEZING and still had a blast is proof that i loved every minute of it. I cant wait for the rest of the trip!

I will never complain about the temperature in Macon again! (Julia Chenault)

It was freezing this morning, like literally. However, the cold didn't really hit me until the wind started blowing. Plus the sun is not really up at 7:15am...a little too early for my taste. We made it to the Metro, which I think we are all getting the hang of, and then we went on to the auditorium. I was kind of worried about falling asleep during the speakers, but they turned out to be really interesting. The first speaker was Professor Steve Bell who spoke about the changing media and how it has affected the candidates and their respective campaigns. The second speaker was Dana Bash who is a senior correspondent on Capitol Hill for CNN. During Campaign '08 she was assigned to follow John McCain and later Sarah Palin. She was my favorite because she had a Q&A session which was really informative; her answers gave us insight into parts of the campaign that we would otherwise not have access to. The third speaker was the author of our assigned textbook, Dr. Michael Genovese. He did not speak for very long because he will be speaking extensively throughout the week, but the short amount he did speak got me excited for the rest of his topics. That was the end of our morning (and our warmth). The rest of the day was filled with lunch at a pizza kitchen as well as a bus tour of D.C.

I came to Washington, D.C. when I was a senior in high school, but this time around I found the monuments more interesting than I did then. The first sight we visited was the Iwo Jima memorial. I was really excited to see this one because it had been closed for a cleaning the last time I was there. The second stop we made was the Lincoln Memorial, but it there was a lot of setup for the Inauguration so that kind of killed the scenery. On the same stop as the Lincoln Memorial we also went to the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. Even though it was cold, I still stopped to reflect upon the names of those who gave their lives to protect our country. The next memorial we visited was the World War II Memorial. This one is my favorite by far. Naturally we had to get our picture taken under the Georgia pillar, and then we watched the ducks splash around in the fountains. So easily entertained. The last monument that we actually got off the bus for was the Jefferson Memorial. Of all the monuments, I thought that this one had the best view as it sits right on the Potomac. Finally, we finished our driving tour by driving by the FDR Memorial, the various Smithsonians, as well as the Capitol which was already being prepared for Obama's inauguration next Tuesday. We ended our tour at Union Station where a few of us enjoyed a very nice meal at a restaurant called 'America'. A fitting meal to end a fantastic day!

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.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

1/10/09 (Bryant Harden)

5:45 came very early! We headed to the ATL Airport and everyone seemed to get along well and conversations started like everyone already knew each other.

The plane took off and up we went. Obviously when the plane reached the clouds the windows were completely white, but at the peak it seemed I was looking at a whole new world. The clouds were the ground, making their own mountains and rivers.

We landed at Ronald Reagan Airport around 11:15 and headed to get the luggage.

When we left the airport we made our way around messing up the directions plenty of times just like normal tourists always do. The funniest part to me was the site of all 12 of us with all our luggage getting on the METRO and walking around looking for the hotel. At one point, I was trying to move my luggage around so people could walk around the METRO and I did not pay attention to the "doors are now closing" notice. I fell forward, not completely, but enough to get a few laughs.

Finally, the hotel was in sight and we got checked in.

Dr. Domin treated us all to a great lunch at Ruby Tuesday's. I ordered the shrimp and chicken tenders and a coke because the only tea they had was unsweetened and peach (definitely not in GA anymore). Well I drank a few kinda fast and WOW (Coke is filling), well the waiter forgot my baked potato and brought it when I was pretty much done and definitely full so I carried a baked potato around with me. (It was funny at the moment!)

A few of us decided to go to the National Mall and it started drizzling. Well we are all tough, of course, and decided to make the trip. The drizzle kept on (seemed like the drizzle got heavier)and made the 34 degrees temperature even worse. We made it to the National Mall, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and the American History museum and went the the American Presidency section.

I am now back in the hotel room with pizza on the way and my potato on the balcony.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to our blog

Our presidency class will utilize this is our blog while we are away at President-Elect Obama's historic inauguration on Tuesday, 20 January. I hope our students will use it order to share their experiences with family, friends, and their instructor as we experience this historic event together. In turn, I hope family and friends will share their thoughts with our group to make this an interactive exercise. Please be as creative as you wish i.e., share pictures, video, audio, etc. We look forward to corresponding with you over the next few weeks!