Washington, DC is a national symbol for its history for being founded by the Constitution as the nation’s capital. Forty-three presidents have been in this city and watched over it as it has grown into what it is today. This city is iconic, and I had many expectations before I arrived there for the first time. I wanted to first-hand understand how the government shutdown affected individuals who live here. I learned that the shutdown really didn’t affect individuals in DC unless you were a tourist or worked for the federal government. However, as the trip continued, I had an experience with someone that was affected by this shutdown that I will never forget. I had requested an Uber and met a man who worked for the Federal government. He had to take up a second job as an Uber driver to keep food on the table for his family. This was a very eye-opening experience because as a tourist, most were just upset they couldn’t get into the National Archives and other sights. Most didn’t get to actually hear from someone that is truly affected by the shutdown. This experience made me become more self-aware of others around me and how the divide in the government was harming those that need to provide for their families.
A common misconception that I found to be untrue is how polarized the city is. Before I arrived in Washington, DC I was under the impression the city was very polarized because that is what media outlets made it seem like. In my expectations essay, I talked about how the city is very polarized and nothing was getting done in Congress. However, that is just not accurate. The media portrays Washington as a city where everyone is just looking to benefit themselves and aren’t interested in working with others across the aisle. However, as we talked with Representative Abby Finkenauer and other members of Congress through the Washington Center this is not true. The Congressmen and women are just as upset about the shutdown as fellow Americans and they are doing their best to work with each other to resolve the issue. Finkenauer even talked about how she is working on a bill with a Republican Representative that is right across the hall from her. The common misconception is that Congress does not want to work together, which is what caused the shutdown. When in reality, most want to come to an agreement to get the government up and running again.
Specifically, our class had the opportunity to talk with Senator Bernie Sanders, this meeting opened my eyes to the role the media plays in shaping our opinions and the information we retain. This meeting made me stop and think about where I get my information and talking points from, which is the media. They ultimately, decide what the public reads and forms an opinion on. At the time, this was a scary thought to me. Senator Sanders prompted and challenged us to think about how the media shapes our opinion because it controls what we see. This leads me into my next point that comes from Brian Lamb, CEO of C-SPAN. Lamb challenged all of the students at the Washington Center seminar to stop and think about how many news sources the average person reads. In all reality, most individuals only read one news source, which explains why individuals can have skewed information if the source is biased. These individuals are essentially not getting the full story. Through both of these meetings, I have learned how detrimental and critical the media has been in shaping the content and dialogue we view. What we retain from these media sources is then what we go and regurgitate to family and friends during conversations.
Lara Brown, director of the graduate school of political management at George Washington University came and spoke at the Washington Center. This discussion brought my attention to the impact one’s political strategy has on their chances to win the Presidential race. Brown spoke about the impact of one’s image during a campaign and how that affects one to win the Presidential election. Through this, I learned what strategies helped Donald Trump, win the presidency and what hindered Hillary Clinton from winning. This speaker gave me extensive insight in evaluating strategies from Presidential nominees while they are campaigning. As the Iowa Caucuses are right around the corner, this skill will give me an advantage to critically evaluate the image candidates project to the public. The Washington Center hosted two individuals that had previously been in the Trump Administration. These two, Sean Spicer and Sebastian Gorka, were able to provide insight into why Trump had won the election and what to expect in the 2020 election. The main takeaways from these two political figures that I noted were Trump was always 100% himself to the American people. What you saw was what you got. Secondly, Trump was not a politician, he was a successful businessman which made him an outlier. Therefore, these two speakers concluded that it wouldn’t be surprising to see more politicians take this approach in 2020 because it worked so well for President Donald Trump. Altogether, I learned that the Trump Administration had shaped the Presidency and the elections in a way that we have never seen before. Therefore, it will be no surprise that we may see different types of candidates emerge in 2020 that are not politicians.
Lastly, this experience in DC helped me to reflect on where I would eventually like to live when I am done with school. At the Drake University Alumni Event, I was able to listen to prior Drake student’s that were in the same shoes as I was just a few years before. This allowed me to hear how they handled their situation and why they chose to move to Washington, DC. After my experience in the city, I have decided that I would like to move out to DC at some point. They gave me very helpful tips that I will keep in mind in regard to whether or not to bring a vehicle, where to live, and how to commute. In essence, I think this trip has provided me with a network of connections that I feel comfortable reaching out as my graduation date nears. This trip has set me up to be successful no matter where I live, the speakers and alumni we have visited with has given me a diverse array of options for a career path. But for now, I have my sites set on DC and hope to be able to be an alumnus this trip visits in the future.