Reflections of Drake

By Taylor Sellers

As the end of our time in Washington D.C. grows near, it is nice to look back and reflect on where we have been and what we know now. For me, this can all be summed up into six things.

1. Drake alumni are the best alumni.
Site visits to the State Department, CFTC, The Atlantic, and more would not have been possible without the connections to our Drake alumni. At the Drake Alumni reception, Drake in DC students learned just how dynamic the DC alums were. Spanning many fields, all of them seemed to be excited to help students out.

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The Drake Alumni Reception. Photo by Jill Van Wyke

Business cards were exchanged, connections were made, and knowledge was shared. Most importantly, Drake in DC students learned that places halfway across the world were already full of allies.
2. The government does so much more.

Reflecting upon some of the site visits, there were a few that revealed more about our federal government than most had previously known.

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Drake in DC students outside of the CFTC. Photo by Jack Hellie

Coming into the program completely unaware of what the CFTC was, many Drake in DC students like myself were introduced to the inner complexity of government work for the first time. Learning about the behind the scenes work on the financial opportunities in the country made the invisible helping hand of the government known.

The hands of the USDA seem to be around the world, much to the surprise of many. Speaking to people who worked for the Foreign Ag Service of the USDA showed the scope of what the government does, usually unknown to those who pay the taxes to fund it. Programs to regulate food trade and keep our economy strong where part of the department related with produce and health. Even farmers markets, like the beloved Des Moines farmers market, interact with the USDA.
3. Think tanks don’t know what to think.

A lot of scholars don’t, either. Our morning sessions were often filled by people asking “what happens next?”. Donald Trump brings an era of political mystery. The political parties find themselves at the brink of collapse. Concerns about relations with China and Russia loom overhead. So many questions about Trump’s plans remain unanswered,  leaving politicians in a position that is unfamiliar.
The Brookings Institution’s Sarah Binder was frank when she said that this election was unlike any other. with no precedent, the entire country will have to watch and wait.
4. Keep your eyes open.

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Drake in DC students admiring the Capital Building. Photo by Jack Hellie

Look around; especially in a place like D.C., where history has happened in the most unseeming locations. From the hidden animals sculpted into Supreme Court decor, to finding the painter’s self image in the artwork of the Capital Building, there are a lot of details about Washington D.C. that can go unnoticed.

Some of those small things kept us connected to our hometown of Des Moines. The Alpha Delta Pi house at George Washington University reminded me of my sorority sisters back at school. Discovery of a sculpture in D.C. that was the same as one in the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Downtown Des Moines brought some of us back to the Iowa mindset.

5. We learned about more than politics.

Surrounded by all of the political drama of the election, Drake in DC students learned about themselves as well. on several occasions, our beliefs and values were put to the test.

During our budgeting simulation, people had to make hard decisions about what they believed in and what was realistic. rationalizing our thoughts and voting, some where surprised at the opinions of others. not only did we learn to make decisions with others, but we learned about the convictions we held and how that translated into real life, tough decisions.

6. We are a happy, adhesive group.

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Drake in DC students posing by the Iowa pillar at the WW2 memorial.Photo by Jack Hellie

Coined from the “happy, cohesive group” that Professor Caufield and Van Wyke call us, Drake in DC turned into a happy, adhesive group: we stick together. Ideological differences, while present, were not as strong as our Bulldog bonds. From having my back on the metro to literally catching me when I fall, my Drake peers have been there.

We have laughed over embarrassing moments (like being locked out of the building) and shared important advice (like where to get the best brownie).

With the theme of this program being political discourse, I will admit that I struggled to understand some of the opinions of my peers, as we all have. Conversations were still held, and headway was made. At the end of the day, we left our group discussions as a happy, adhesive group.

As the program reaches inauguration day, the reflections of Drake in DC have changed. Prepped for the main event, we all face January 20th with fresh perspectives, newfound knowledge, and camaraderie.

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