D.C. – More than a tourist destination

As I write this, tomorrow we will be heading to Washington D.C. to take classes, meet people, witness the inauguration, and so much more!  With any luck, there will be some serious networking going on at the various events and places we will be; I would love to live and work in D.C. for awhile, although I am just as happy to stay in Des Moines.  Meeting young professionals (or seasoned professionals) will help me solidify my career choices (non-profit work) and make valuable connections to help me become successful.  Furthermore, the city has so much history and value that visiting it (the second time for me) will be such a thrill!

When I heard about the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, I jumped at the chance precisely because of the reasons outlined above.  In addition, my support for President Obama and the values put forth by many liberal agendas (not all, of course) led me to believe that seeing him inaugurated would be a wonderful experience.  (Of course, at the time of signing up for the course, the President had not been reelected…regardless, it is a historical event with important ramifications for the next four years.) There will be so many influential people present and the chance to meet and connect with some of them is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I am also looking forward to volunteering at Bread for the City Food Pantry, an organization with visions that fit with my personal mission.  Also, can I just say that bowling at the White House is probably one of the coolest things I will ever get to do?!

During the inauguration speech, I hope to hear the president talk about bridging gaps between the Republicans and the Democrats, especially when it comes to the upcoming debt ceiling, health care, increased taxes for corporations and the rich, and, particularly, funding for social programs and safety nets.  I don’t think he will address all of those issues, mostly because taxes and funded programs are so incredibly controversial in the current political climate.  I would love to hear him address issues of climate change, endangered species, women’s rights, carcinogens, EPA and FDA regulations, and sustainable farming, but, unfortunately, those issues are not anywhere near the top of the list of important things to cover (although I would argue they should be).

Last time we were in D.C., we got all the tourist pictures. But D.C. is so much more than that – people live and work here everyday! I am hoping to see more of that side of the capital this time around.

When I last visited Washington, D.C., I was 17 and on a family vacation.  This time around, the experience will be academic in nature, and we will be learning more about the city as a city and a community instead of a tourist destination.  We toured the Capitol the last time we visited, but it will be good to meet people who live and work within the city, especially with the amount of job opportunities that exist.  I am also looking forward to doing our service project; in doing so, I hope we learn more about the problems the community has and what is being done to offset some of the issues, e.g. poverty, violence, education, etc.

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