Washington D.C in the Rearview Mirror

By Zach Dvorak

This whole experience of going to Washington D.C seemed spur of the moment when I signed up for it in the spring and continued until I left the hectic capital. I choose to do this because politics has always interested me, and while going to some country abroad or a beach sounded nice, something about getting down and dirty with government policy just clicked with me.

After signing up for the class, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I would be going to the inauguration and hearing from individual experts on political issues. But that is all I could tell my family while at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, when I was told to write about my expectations I never really had any strong opinions on the matter. I was just excited to be included.

That isn’t surprising for me, though as I don’t like to have high expectations when going into such an unpredictable situation. It just makes it too easy for what you to be disappointed when you hope for so much. So, I kept what I want as broad and as simple as possible. My list was short and sweet starting with me wanting to do touristy things like visit the monuments, I wanted to get the perspectives of everyday people, and I wanted to talk with people about the issues I find most important to my values.

It is hard to believe, but most of my expectations did not come true, and I am totally okay with that. I learned fast that even with two weeks straight in DC, you can still not accomplish everything you want, making the city more exciting and enticing. But just like the city itself, time moves fast and slow all at once. The hour long meetings seemed so incredibly detailed and the days start to blur, and before you realize it, your time on the trip is over. Honestly, when looking back on the experience I am amazed at how much I did while sick and tired, and now being back at school and I feel like I am going through withdrawal.

While that is all important, this blog is for me to share if the trip met my expectations, and if I learned anything in DC, it’s never to give an absolute answer. So yes, but no.

I got to see many different tourist attractions which I will have in a slideshow instead of listing all of them off. But I do have some that I want to highlight.

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First, I surprisingly got to visit Mount Vernon or George Washington’s Mansion. The estate was one of my favorite site visits, and it came on one of our off days. It was my only time leaving Washington D.C, and now I can say I have visited the great state of Virginia. Unexpectedly beautiful and peaceful compared to the city, Washington’s home gave a nice relief from all the business we accomplished during our first week. I even got to get a close up of his tomb, which is usually gated off. That is a moment I won’t forget.

washingtons_tomb

A close up of George Washington’s Tomb. Photo cred: Zach Dvorak

Another important tourist spot for me was the Jefferson Memorial. I wrote about the situation in one of my previous blogs, and without a doubt going to see my favorite President’s memorial was a touching experience. Regardless of the other tourist attractions that I missed out on, like almost all the museums, every tourist spot I did get to see tickled that itch of being a first-time explorer, while also leaving enough attractions for me to want to come back shortly. Just not during the winter.

zach_dvorak_at_jefferson_memorial

Excitedly standing in the Jefferson Memorial. Photo cred: Zach Dvorak

As for me wanting to get a feel for people’s perspectives on the inauguration and the transition of presidents, I can safely say I’m glad it didn’t happen as planned. It would have seemed lame now thinking about it, asking the typical questions would not have made the trip any fun. Instead, I got many different opportunities to discuss with people about their beliefs in this amazing process of transition. From Uber drivers, waiters, students, or experts, I learned their thoughts behind the situation at hand, and most people fulfilled my intrigue in people’s ideas. It was a breath of fresh air to be in a situation where talking politics is normal and having differences was expected. Some of my favorite parts of the trip were asking experts or classmates their ideas of what is to come in all forms of our government, and it in return helped me understand more intimately what I look forward to in these next four short years.

For my last expectation, I knew we would be hearing from experts in particular fields. While most of my points were not touched on, I was kind of glad to hear about other policy issues I typically don’t find interesting. We spent a lot of time talking about agriculture, and I mean A LOT of time, which isn’t surprising when we are from Iowa and are talking to alumni. With no prior knowledge on agriculture issues, it made learning about government agencies and committees through that lens more bipartisan and impressive than I would have expected. So while my policy topics might be important to me, they are also major issues that would take more than two weeks to talk about, making me okay with the idea of not discussing them.

As for the inauguration itself, I wrote about it in detail previously, where I focused on my faith in government and less in the people. It was an intense experience and a sad realization of where society stands currently. But I’m glad to have experienced it, although I hardly seeing myself doing it again – unless I get one of those sweet seats right up front.

Not to seem like a broken record, but I have written about my growth on this trip more than once. I love challenging my beliefs because it provides me a chance to expand my thoughts on different subjects. This trip has allowed me to grow as a person, and one of the major areas of growth is my faith in the government. The campaign of our society to say we have a broken system is an easy scapegoat, but after coming to DC, I have found myself on the side of pro-government, and it’s more of the populace’s fault for our troubles. Something crazy for me to say before I came on this trip.

I think it is important to end this blog and the trip with saying thank you to all that put this together and allowed me this opportunity. It blew my minimal expectations out of the water and made me feel proud to be an American more than I ever have before.

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