I was one of the fortunate participants in the Close-Up program in Washington D.C. this year. Prior to leaving, not only was my political efficacy low, but my political positivity was almost empty. I had little faith in our government systems because of the past presidential election chaos and the other prevailing issues in our country such as police shootings, oil pipeline construction, and seeming corruption in government offices. Like many others, I often spouted political negativity and backhanded comments about the direction the country is headed or argued why one candidate for president is “obviously” better than the other because of such and such a scandal that the other participated in. Though it may not have always shown on the outside, I carried this attitude with me on the 4 hour plane ride to the east coast.
The people working in the capitol building are good people. They are there not because of the pay--which is little--or the benefits of the job--which are few--they are there because they believe that they can make a difference.
When I arrived in Washington D.C., I expected to face a pessimistic city of cunningly sharp politicians who express fear for the upcoming years in American politics. In small parts, I did. Because D.C. is a very Democratic district, the success of now-president-elect Mr. Trump was unpopular with the majority of voters. However, it was not reflected in the culture there.
The people working in the capitol building are good people. They are there not because of the pay—which is little--or the benefits of the job—which are few—they are there because they believe that they can make a difference. They believe in the system of government that we have here, they know that it works, and they have something to offer this great country. Not only did the people emit this type of attitude, but so did everything I saw.
Washington D.C. (the District of Columbia) is the capital of our amazing country. The overwhelming feeling of pride and honor for our nation is more powerful there than anywhere else in the United States. This place is home to the Smithsonian museums, an example of the pride we have in American values, knowledge, and innovation; numerous war memorials showing the humility and gratitude we hold toward those martyrs who died for our freedom; and monuments regarding the great leaders of this nation, magnifying our country’s democratic values of liberty dearest to us.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this trip was visiting the presidential memorials. No where else have I felt more pride for my country and faith in what we can become. These memorials are frozen in time from eras of depression, war, and fear. But the messages are ones of joy, peace, and hope. After visiting these memorials, I was inspired. Our country has been through so much, and even through the tough times, we always seem to come out better than we were when we started.
During the presidential election this year, the mass media and political campaigns promoted a feeling of fear, uncertainty, and doom for the next 4 years of our country—regardless of who the president would be. It was hard not to get stuck in that tornado of hatred because everywhere you looked you could easily find gossip, scandal, and negativity in emphasis. However, most of this is just superficial propaganda. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Martin Luther King Jr. reinforced the idea when he wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
Washington DC opened my eyes to the effort and manpower it takes to run a country. It also showed me that we are not doomed for failure, but we are prepared to become a better and stronger and more unified nation than ever before. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”