DC to DSM and Back Again

August 18, 2001 was my last day as a DC resident. I packed up the final bag and walked out of my DC life to live in a flat square state called Iowa. Was I happy about it? Not really, though I have truly learned to love Iowa. The Iowa caucus is like paradise. And seriously, “Iowa nice” is a real thing. Nicest people you’ll ever meet.

But when you leave, suddenly all things DC seem cool again. And not “Wow, that’s a cool new Wal-Mart in the middle of DC” (DC, how could you?). Instead, it’s “Hey, I really liked my life there. Free museums and great friends are not all that easy to come by in life.”

But now I’m back in DC and having the opportunity to see and hear things that I didn’t see and hear when I was living here. Sure… you live four blocks from the Lincoln Memorial for a while and you tend to forget it’s there. Sure… you spend your days in classes studying Congress and you tend to forget that the Capitol – the actual Congress – is minutes away. Once you’ve walked by Sonny Bono park for about the 10th time, it becomes a boring triangle in the middle of Dupont traffic. Come to think of it, it may have been a boring triangle in the middle of Dupont traffic the first time you saw it.

Here’s the good news: you come back and you realize that DC really is cool. It’s different, but it’s cool. The monuments at sunset (or with a full moon rising)? Stunning. The city is full of young, interesting, engaging, smart people doing great things. Conversations on the metro (some of which have the hush of shared confidential information) are filled with acronyms. There’s just something about this city.

Plus, you get to come back and totally geek out on smart talk about Congress. Now that is fun. And few people seem to understand how satisfying (and yes, truly fun) discussion of obscure legislative procedures and electoral reforms can be.  I feel like that number is probably higher in DC than anywhere else.

But here are two particularly amazing things about my triumphant return to DC that are particularly worthy of note:

First, I’m surrounded by the next generation of young, interesting, engaging, smart people who are about to do great things. Maybe they’ll do them in Washington, maybe somewhere else. Even for a two-week adventure, bringing a group of students to DC is like seeing the city through your own college-age eyes all over again. And when they are a happy cohesive group, it is that much more delightful. No petty drama, lots of shared excitement and easy laughter.

Second, our Drake alumni have now become friends and professional contacts and they are exceptional (and definitely cooler than Wal-Mart). In some cases, you recall the long conversations about what they might someday decide to do with their life. You remember some of them coming to your office to announce their first big DC job offer. Sometimes it’s hard to remember those days because now, they are the young, interesting, engaging, smart people doing great things. They are the people that make this city special.

12 days to go on this adventure of ours. We’re just getting warmed up (amid a “winter weather advisory” that for Iowa folks seems downright silly).

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