“A nation is the relationships between its people”

By Tim Webber

On the day before I left home to travel to Des Moines — my stop for the week before heading to Washington, D.C. — I watched the holiday broadcast of CBS’ Face the Nation. Specifically, I watched John Dickerson’s interview with Stephen Colbert. I was struck by the words that Colbert uttered early in the piece:

“A nation is not its politics. A nation is the relationships between its people.”

One of the big draws of a trip like this is politics. The opportunity to watch politics in action in our nation’s capital certainly sounds like an exciting one. But I think Colbert has a point. If we really want to see the state of our nation, maybe we should look closer at the “relationships between its people” and less at its politics.

With that in mind, one thing on which I’ll be keeping a close eye is the ordinary an unordinary interactions between people in Washington, D.C. The inauguration, certainly, will be an excellent opportunity to examine these interactions. But studying those interactions in the weeks prior the inauguration (and not in the heat of that moment) may also be revealing.

I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life and I go to school in Iowa, so I am absolutely a child of Midwestern hospitality. But I’ve also spent some time on the East coast, and if I’m being completely honest, my expectations for these interactions are fairly low. I know that our politics are a muddle right now, and I fear that that will be reflected in the relationships among people in D.C. In this case, I’d love to see my hypothesis disproved.

There are other things I hope to accomplish on this trip as well. For one, it’s been a long time since I visited Washington, and I’m looking forward to visiting all the classic tourist spots.

From an academic or political standpoint, there are a few issues about which I’m particularly concerned. I’m intrigued with how climate change will be addressed — not by the president-elect, as his opinions on the topic are already well known — but by those that actually understand the grave danger that climate change poses to our future.

I’ll also be keeping a close eye on race after taking a class on it last semester. There have been moments within the past year when race relations have appeared hopelessly fragmented. How will the incoming president address those concerns?

Finally, a professional goal: As I’ll be graduating in May and entering the job market, I’d love to work on my networking skills. Finding a stable job out of college is one of my chief concerns even now, and I’m sure many of my fellow seniors feel the same. I suppose this means that I’ll be looking at “relationships between people” from another angle as well.

We’re entering a year of uncertainty — especially for graduating seniors like me. My hope is that this trip helps inject a little clarity into the world.

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