Right Place, Right Time, Right Uniform

Interview with Charlotte Clymer

Chloe Smith

The Importance of Being Challenged

Today we met with Charlotte Clymer. I was really looking forward to this interview, and it did not disappoint. I asked Charlotte what she thinks the most effective way to protest is without harming people in the process, as she had discussed the topic in her latest podcast. She said that if you are putting other people in jeopardy in any way, you undermine what you are trying to accomplish. If you are being harmful, you take attention away from your cause or message, and you may even cause people to become more hateful or inconsiderate. 

Charlotte also spoke about how harmful division is. People tend to form an opinion and stick to it stubbornly. Charlotte’s message is that if we don’t communicate with each other, problems will never be resolved. If you don’t talk to other people who hold different opinions, your opinions can never be challenged, and it’s important that they be challenged if we are to improve our nation. – Chloe Smith

Mordecai Coleman

“You Don’t Have to Run for Congress to Be An Effective Public Servant”

Today is our last full day in Washington DC, and we have talked to some incredibly thoughtful and effective public servants, people who have a great love for others and for their country. These folks work non-stop on behalf of equality, equity, freedom and justice, both in government and in the country generally. They come from all walks of life, and while they don’t all agree on everything, they all share something in common: none of them are currently members of Congress, although a few work for or with members of Congress. I had only vaguely noticed this fact up0 to this point in our trip, but today I became consciously aware of it.

Today we had the pleasure of interviewing Charlotte Clymer, an LGBTQ+ activist, trans woman, and veteran. She is a firm believer in the importance of faith in God, however that may appear to an individual. She made the point that “You don’t have to run for office to be an effective public servant.” She put into words something I had noticed throughout this trip, that some of the most brilliant and effective public servants are those who don’t hold high-profile positions. Instead, some people find their own way, based on their own sense of morality and public service, to make this country and world a better place. It is incredible to me that some people can remain grounded in their own morals and beliefs without discounting the morals and beliefs of others. Charlotte spoke about how so many people become stuck in their own way of thinking and refuse to make room for other ways of thinking. I aspire to be like her, firm in what I believe is right, but genuinely open to other beliefs about what is right. – Mordecai Coleman

Know Thy Amygdala

Interview with Linda Ryden

Lucy Harris

Fight, Flight, or Freeze: Understanding the Brain to Manage Difficult Emotions

Today we interviewed Linda Ryden, founder of the non-profit “Peace of Mind,” which helps schools implement mindfulness into curricula. She had a lot to say to us about the practice of learning and understanding mindfulness early in life. She also spoke about metacognition—thinking about thinking—and the importance of understanding how we can train our brains to work better to understand and manage emotions. I’m very interested in understanding the brain, but I have never viewed it from the perspective of using knowledge about the brain to understand why I have certain emotional reactions to things.

Linda explained that her curriculum teaches kids about brain processes, in particular how the brain processes emotions and feelings. Much of her focus is on the amygdala, which is responsible for the “fight, flight, or freeze” response to perceived danger or threat, and teaching kids to understand how to manage their reactions and allow the more rational part of the brain to function better. Although the amygdala performs an important job, as it protects us in threatening situations, kids can learn to work through conflict and stress to process difficult emotions in a healthy way. – Lucy Harris

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

It’s More Than Painting Rainbows and Butterflies

This morning we interviewed Linda Ryden, a teacher who created the organization Peace of Mind. Her curriculum teaches children from a young age about mindfulness, taking them through exercises that give them a way to understand their mind and why they feel the things they feel. I thought it was amazing that she doesn’t push the narrative that kids need to be friends with everyone in class. She understands that you do not need to be buddies with everyone you meet and that you aren’t obligated to agree with everything someone says. What she does expect, however, is for her students to be capable of being kind and advocating for others even if they do not like them. It was very nice to hear this message, because often we think of teaching peace as involving painting rainbows and butterflies on the walls and telling everybody that they should be happy. Instead, Linda shows her students exactly how and why our brains respond to stress, discomfort, or danger. She explained how the amygdala responds when you’re scared or on edge, and she discussed how she teaches students to calm themselves in these situations. This approach gives kids a better chance to develop into kind and sensible leaders who lead with compassion. I believe that this method is the most effective way to teach peace. – Lagi Hunnicutt

Amelie Zands

It Starts With the Way You Talk to Yourself

Understanding how your own brain works is the first step to understanding others around you. Linda Ryder spoke to us today about the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls the fight, flight, or freeze response to danger. This part of the brain is triggered when it senses danger. Sometimes, however, this response is triggered when one is not in danger, for example, when one is simply stressed while taking a test. She teaches students up to the eighth grade how to sense when they are triggered and to understand how and why they feel as they do, so that they can gain control of their emotions. When students are able to control their emotions, they are then able to reduce the possibility of conflict. Students can then look more critically at a situation without being overcome by fear or anger. She explained that minimizing conflict “has to start with you and the way you talk to yourself,” so that you can then move on to face larger problems. As a result, students are able to communicate better with themselves and others, and thus work to create a better environment for everyone. 

Linda’s goal is to help people understand one another. She often asks her students to think of a person in class whom they don’t know very well and then to think of things they have in common, for example, how they get home from school. After the exercise, students often say that they had never thought about how fundamentally similar they are to those people they had previously thought were very different from them. This exercise helps students to remember that everyone is human and that kindness is essential if we are to have the conversations necessary to change the world for the better. – Amelie Zands

Nash Wilson

Peace of Mind and the Science of Mindfulness

Linda Ryden is much more than just the person who started the Peace of Mind curriculum. In her interview, she told the story of a special education staff member who would sit on her couch in the back of the room while her students did their mindfulness exercises. He confronted her to tell her that he thought she had “the luckiest job in the world” because she “gets to sit around all day and meditate.” However, once he learned that there is scientific research behind her curriculum, he became a believer and got on board. I find it interesting that many people underestimate mindfulness as a way to manage some emotional problems. Linda gave the example of one school that had behavioral issues with students. The school spent a lot of money on security guards and “behavior techs” who would break up fights and discipline kids, but the behavioral issues continued. 

Linda explained that the amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze response to real or perceived danger. I really enjoyed how she used the example of a math test to explain brain science. Often when students see a question they can’t answer they will become stressed. Some students will want to “flee” by quitting the test or asking to go to the bathroom. Other students will want to “fight” their test by crumpling it up and throwing it on the floor. Still others will “freeze” and be unable to complete the test. I think the last possibility is the most likely for many students. – Nash Wilson

Run with What Compels You

Interview with Susannah Wellford

Lucy Harris

“Who Else Should Be In the Room In this Conversation?”

Today we interviewed Susannah Wellford. This is one of the interviewees I have been most excited to speak with, as I find the work that she does through her non-profit Running Start—encouraging and empowering women to become involved in politics—so inspiring and beneficial. What really stuck with me from the interview is what she said about staying confident, bold, and determined, even in uneasy situations.

She encouraged us to always ask critical questions, even if we’re not 100% confident. Those questions are still appreciated. She also remarked that it is important to ask others for help, and she noted that older people usually want to help younger people. Another piece of advice she gave that I find very insightful is to always ask the question, “Who else should be in the room in this conversation?” She said it is important to have a “collection” of people, since your voice and ideas travel further when you are connected to others, and others can help you in many different ways in your career and in your life. – Lucy Harris

Do Not Doubt the Wisdom You Already Have

Interviews with Licy Do Canto

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

“People Have A Tendency to Sound More Sophisticated Than They Are By Speaking A Lot About Things They Know Little About” 

This morning we interviewed Licy Do Canto from APCO. Licy is the head of market engagement for North America at APCO and has been named one of the most influential figures in DC. As he was our first male interviewee, I was slightly nervous about how different it would be to engage in conversation with him. Instead of being difficult to talk to, Licy was incredibly well-spoken, calm, and engaging in his responses. An important topic that we discussed is ignorance and how to understand and confront it. 

Licy stressed the importance of doing your own research and drawing your own conclusions about issues. Often we see people on the internet, particularly on social media, ranting about social or political issues, and too often we uncritically believe what they say, especially if we agree with them. He stated that “People have a tendency to sound more sophisticated than they are by speaking a lot about things they know little about.” But not thinking for oneself can create a false narrative that does more harm than good. His main point was to emphasize the importance of thinking for yourself and making sure that you come to your own conclusions, and I really appreciate the confidence he has in our ability to reason for ourselves. – Lagi Hunnicutt

Mordecai Coleman

“Ignorance Is Everywhere; It’s How You Decide to Engage With It That Matters” 

Today we woke up at 6 AM, which is early for us but not, I am learning, for most people who work in DC. We made breakfast, half-dressed in our interview attire, and then ran out the door so we could make it to the Warner Building by 9:30 AM for our first interview of the day.

Once we arrived and checked in we discovered that there had been a mixup regarding the time on the itinerary and that we were three hours early. We took that little setback in stride, moved another interview to tomorrow to make time for today’s interview, and decided to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History while we waited. The exhibits in the museum are fascinating. I had visited the museum on one other occasion a few years ago when I visited DC for the first time. Revisiting the museum, two years older, allowed me to appreciate the exhibits all the more. 

We returned to the Warner Building and made our way up to the eleventh floor, where we prepared for our interview with Licy Do Canto. As the North America Head of Market Engagement for APCO, Licy has some incredible insights regarding what needs to be done to move policy making in a positive and cooperative direction. He walked into the room having just come from a meeting with diplomats from Europe.

One of his opening remarks was, “The more knowledge we gain the more ignorant we become.”  He spoke about how in this day and age, when we seemingly have all of the world’s information at our disposal, it is important to do our own research and to “resist the temptation to make your mind up on very little.” Licy was adamant that we fight ignorance intelligently, saying, “Ignorance is everywhere; it’s how you decide to engage with it that matters.” Later, he elaborated on this point, saying that we can use ignorance as a tool to cultivate wisdom by learning from our mistakes. I find this idea profound, because I know that I often label things that other people think as “ignorant” or “stupid” without trying to understand why someone thinks the way they do. Thinking this way closes off many possibilities for gaining wisdom. Since my mission here in DC is to gain as much perspective as I can, it’s only right that I actually make a point to try to understand everything I can, including ideas that I might initially think are unfounded. – Mordecai Coleman

This Too Shall Pass

Interview with Former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Amelie Zands

“Cuba is Not Free, and Human Rights Are Not Respected” 

Today we interviewed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the former congresswoman from Miami. She is a Cuban immigrant who moved to the US when she was eight years old. When her family left Cuba, they bought round trip tickets to the US, as they always thought they were going to return home. Decades later, she still has that ticket. 

My grandparents fled from Cuba to New York when they were about seventeen and eighteen years old. When I heard that we were interviewing a former congresswomen who was born in the same city as my grandmother, and who understands a part of my heritage that not many people do, I was ecstatic. I asked how her experience as a Cuban-American affects the way she views US foreign policy, and she replied, “It has shaped how I think.” Her understanding of how the Russian government has been involved in Cuban affairs has fueled her passion for helping foreign countries face similar problems in their own governments. She explained that she works to make life better both in the US and in Cuba: “I work hard and pray, hoping that someday my homeland will be free.” She is passionate about bringing people together, “building bridges and not blowing them up.” I hope that one day I am able to visit Cuba in a time of understanding between people. – Amelie Zands

Lucy Harris

A Lesson in Bi-Partisanship

Today we had the pleasure of interviewing former US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this interview, since we hadn’t yet interviewed someone with such close ties to Congress and government. I was also very curious about what we would learn from her, since she comes from a political background that differs from that of the others we have interviewed so far.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed hearing about what Rep. Ros-Lehtinen had to say about how much connection matters in life. She spoke a lot about the importance of bipartisanship and building bridges with other individuals, even when those individuals have different views from you, come from different backgrounds, cultures, or have different identities. It was nice to hear how much she had to say about this topic and how she tries to include bipartisanship in all of the work that she does. She was adamant about how it is important to believe in yourself and the goodness of people. Finding the good things about people helps to connect with them even if you are initially suspicious of making that connection. – Lucy Harris

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

Living Outside the Bubble

Today we interviewed former congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I was nervous to interview her since she was the first conservative interviewee that we’ve had, and I thought that since she was in Congress and had a very high standing in our government that the interview would be a lot more formal and perhaps uncomfortable than our previous interviews. To our surprise, she was extremely relaxed and funny. She was personable, genuine, and generous as she spoke to us. She gave us bags of popcorn and plates of cheese that we enjoyed during the interview. The visit was really nice, to be honest.

She stated that a major reason that she retired from Congress is that there is so much toxicity in politics, and no one seems to value bipartisanship. Her words affected me because I am always astonished that so many people refuse to listen to others with different beliefs. I’ve noticed that we tend to live in social bubbles in which we only interact with others who share our beliefs. While it is comforting to live in a bubble, not opening ourselves to new ideas and perspectives hinders improvement of our democracy and increases polarization. I often find myself having the same interactions with my peers, so knowing that people in our government also value connection with those who hold different beliefs is reassuring. – Lagi Hunnicutt

I Choose to Love People

Interview with Mia Keeys

Chloe Smith

Children Just Want to Play 

This morning we interviewed Mia Keeys. I really enjoyed hearing about how much she appreciates young minds. Something I always remember from my childhood is that I never felt like I was being judged or criticized. I simply did not care what people thought about me. As Mia said, children just want to play. She also stated that she thinks people should have that same attitude, and I think what she said is true. 

Mia is a very intelligent and well-versed individual, and she has traveled a lot and lived in multiple countries. She told us about her experiences living in Indonesia and South Africa and how they still resonate with her today. She also talked about the power of music and the importance of connecting with songs and artists. She said that music is one of the best things she uses to calm herself. She is very easy to talk to, and we all enjoyed our time with her. – Chloe Smith

Emilia Lord

Raising Awareness of Women’s Health Issues

Today, we met with the beautiful Mia Keeys. She has lived many lives: as author, speaker, writer, and congressional advocate for women’s health and health equity. As a woman, I am very interested in learning about advancements in women’s health. I was impressed with her achievements as I did research for our interview, and I continued to be impressed as she spoke to us. 

Both younger and older women find it disheartening that their needs are often overlooked. I’ve spoken to my female classmates about our dissatisfaction with women’s healthcare, and it felt good to know that our frustrations are shared by some in Congress. Mia brought up her own frustrations with the lack of laws that protect women, and she stated that when she became a women’s health advisor, she found that not one law was in place for maternal needs. This is ironic, she said, since we all “come from women.” She has spoken and written on the topic of insurance for women, particularly the importance of extending insurance coverage for women who have given birth from a few months to a year. Mia’s efforts have helped raise awareness of the importance of supporting mothers during this critical time. 

Mia grew up in Philadelphia, and has since traveled and lived around the world, including in Indonesia for three years and South Africa for seven months. She has a unique perspective on global healthcare disparities as a result of these experiences. Mia was honest about the reality of working on healthcare policy: although much work is being done, there is much more to do. 

I found Mia’s comments reassuring, and I very much enjoyed getting to know her. Her passion and dedication are truly inspiring, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with her. – Emilia Lord

Mordecai Coleman

“I Choose to Love People.”

Today we had the great pleasure of interviewing Mia Keeys, an incredible woman doing policy work in the medical field. As a woman who has lived in both South Africa and Indonesia, she has some valuable insights into how humans interact with one another and how interaction varies from one country to another. We asked Mia what she thinks her best qualities are and how she uses them to her advantage, and her response was surprising and inspiring: “I choose to love people.” I told her at the end of the interview that I had never really thought about loving people as a choice. I’ve always seen myself as an introvert and therefore not as a “people person.”

After hearing Mia’s answer, I began thinking about how I choose to interact with people. I realize that I spend a lot of time worrying that people won’t do the right thing or that they won’t live up to my expectations, and this kind of thinking is detrimental to how I interact with others. Mia told me that she always does her best to believe in the goodness of others and give people second chances. She has inspired me to try to do the same. I know it isn’t always easy to do, especially because I feel like I’m fighting against my nature, but I know it is worth the effort. As humans, we need interaction and connection, and choosing to love people is the first step toward achieving both. As we approach the end of our week here in DC, I’m hoping to use this new perspective to engage better with our interviewees, and I’m hoping to begin integrating it into my life generally. – Mordecai Coleman

A New Friend For Life

Interview with Carla Dirlikov Canales

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

Lead With Authenticity

This evening we had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Dirlikov Canales. I was a little nervous before this interview, as there was a miscommunication, and we didn’t know if there was going to be an interview at all. But everything was sorted out, and I ended up having one of the best interactions with another person in my life. She made it so easy to feel comfortable around her, as talking to her felt so natural. 

The most memorable part of the interview was when she answered my question about cultural identity as a mixed woman. In her founder’s statement for the Canales Project, she describes her experience as bi-racial as involving cultural confusion. Her words resonated with me, since I’m half-white and half-Samoan, and all my life I’ve felt like I was too white to engage with or represent Samoan culture. It felt amazing to be able finally to ask her about how that part of her identity has affected her, and she made me feel like it was OK to feel the way I do and that I am not alone in feeling that way. 

Her biggest piece of advice to me was to “lead with authenticity.” She was also extremely kind and open to us, which made our visit feel personal and authentic. I’ll never forget her kindness, generosity, and authenticity.

Chloe Smith

“The Most Important Conversation You Can Have Is With Yourself”

Today we interviewed Carla Dirlikov Canales. Chelsea asked Nash, Mordecai, and me to hold a parking spot for her while she made her way from the White House to our hostel. Once parked, she greeted us with a warm smile and handshakes. After we escorted her inside and she settled into her chair, it became clear that she not only had a genuine interest in our questions but was also genuinely interested in asking us questions. Our visit felt less like an interview and more like a genuine conversation.

The hour we spent together seemed short, as we took turns asking her questions and answering hers. I play music and have a love for singing, so it was very interesting to hear about her multiple careers, especially her career in opera. I asked her how she stays motivated in such a demanding and highly competitive field. She told us that she keeps herself motivated by observing how people work in DC. She explained that in many offices in DC there are medical professionals who look after people so they don’t have to stop working, even if they’re not feeling well. She noted that the people who work the hardest never complain, and that the intensity with which her colleagues work inspires her to work harder herself.

One thing she said that struck me as profound is that the most important conversation you can have is with yourself, and that how you speak to yourself affects how you live. Teenagers are very impressionable, and the way we view ourselves now can shape who we are for the rest of our lives.

Carla is not only a joy to be around, but she is both a very intelligent and kind person. At the end of our visit she gave us her phone number and encouraged us to reach out to her. We all appreciate Carla’s ability to be authentic. – Chloe Smith

Emilia Lord

 Trusting Yourself

Today we met with Carla Dirlikov Canales, an entrepreneur, teacher, singer, actress, and diplomat. Carla was gracious, kind, and authentic. She asked us questions about ourselves: what makes us happy and how we spend our free time. She emphasized that the most important thing that she and other government employees focus on is ensuring the well-being of younger generations, which was evident in the genuine way she spoke to us.

As juniors, we are starting to think about our future careers, which can cause great anxiety. I was relieved when she told us to let go of stress, that it is essential for us to invest time in ourselves and to trust that our careers will come if they are meant to happen. She spoke on the importance of getting to know yourself and understanding the source of self-criticism inside you. Once you understand yourself, you have already overcome the hardest and most important part of growing as a person and working toward achievement. Walking the line between asking for advice and understanding yourself authentically can be incredibly difficult. She spoke on the importance of intuition, and how in times of indecisiveness your own moral compass will lead you in the right direction. She said that the best way to put full faith in what you do is to know that only you can do it: if you want something badly enough, you must put trust in yourself to achieve it. Carla gave us countless pieces of advice, but what I liked most is that she emphasized the importance of accountability, authenticity, confidence, and the power of creativity, regardless of what field you are in. She is a true inspiration. – Emilia Lord


Airbus Experience Center

Lucy Harris

From Concept to Model to Aircraft: The Airbus Experience

Today we toured the Airbus Experience Center, located in the old Evening Star newspaper building. I was not quite sure what to expect, since I was not very familiar with the work that Airbus does. Nevertheless, I was still eager and curious about what the visit would have in store for us.

As we entered the lobby of the Airbus Experience Center, we saw a display of a few aircraft models. Most were about two and a half feet from nose to tail, with a wingspan of maybe three feet. Although these models are much smaller than the actual aircrafts, everything is exactly to scale. My favorite model is a private jet made by Airbus. Half of the model jet is open so that you can see the seats, tables, couches, bathroom—and even a bedroom!—in the cabin. The chairs are adorned with miniature pillows, and on the tables are miniature foods, silverware, and computers. 

Our guide Désirée began our tour with a quick overview of Airbus. She explained that they build and design all sorts of aircraft and work with NASA and other government agencies on various projects. One of their designs that I found interesting is for a hydrogen-powered aircraft. It is still just a concept, and hasn’t yet been built to scale, but it was still very interesting to see the model of it, and it was interesting to think about the innovative ideas they have for the future.

Top Gun Score
Nash Wilson

Flying a Fighter Jet Over San Francisco

The Airbus tour was quite interesting. Our hosts began our tour by offering us refreshments and showing us a number of cool model planes. One of my favorite models was the Airbus Zephyr, which has an eighty-two foot wingspan but only weighs 150 lbs. It flies in the stratosphere above the Andes Mountains for sixty-four days at a time, taking high quality pictures.

By far, my favorite part of the Airbus tour was the flight simulator. The first plane we flew was the Wright Brothers’ first successful plane, which only managed to fly about four or five feet off the ground. Several of us then took turns landing a passenger plane on a runway. When it was my turn, I flew an awesome black fighter over the beaches of San Francisco. Surprisingly, it seemed to be the easiest plane to fly of those we tested. I liked that the controls inside the jet directed me exactly how to fly by indicating where to point the nose, whether the engines were overheating, and what the G-forces were. – Nash Wilson

Exploring Possibilities at the Pentagon

Pentagon Tour

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

Inspiration at the Pentagon

Today we had the pleasure of touring part of the Pentagon. Our tour guide was the lovely Officer Jackson, who was amazing at answering all of our questions about the Pentagon and telling us about his personal experiences in law enforcement and in the Army. Walking around the Pentagon and seeing all of the personnel in their uniforms was really cool, but what I most loved about the trip is the fact that it reinstated my confidence in pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Recently, I have been swamped with prepping for college and narrowing down the possibilities of what I want to do in the future. I had started to doubt if my aspirations to be in law enforcement, whether as a crime scene investigator or as an FBI agent, is even possible, or if I am up for the challenge. However, what Officer Jackson had to say gave me the confidence to think that a career in law enforcement is something I can actually have. 

As excited as I am for the rest of the trip, I’m not sure if anything is going to make me feel as good about my future as the trip to the Pentagon did today. Now I am filled with hope, and I’m excited to see what the next few years of my life will bring.

From Fantasy to Reality: the Space Force

Chloe Smith

Today I was not quite sure what to expect from our tour of the Pentagon. I knew that it is related to the military, but that was about it. Officer Jackson took us inside, where we were greeted by Charlie, a service dog that works with people to relieve their stress. I thought this was very interesting, because normally service dogs are assigned to an individual person, but Charlie doesn’t really have an owner. 

My favorite part of the day was learning about the Space Force, which joined the Pentagon in 2019. Throughout the halls of the Pentagon are museum-like displays on the walls representing the six different branches of the military. Some of the Space Force displays include scenes from movies and TV shows that popularized the idea of space travel. The Delta, the symbol representing the Space Force, is reminiscent of the Star Trek logo. I find it interesting that members of the Space Force are called “Guardians.”

It was also very interesting to learn about what happened at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Most of what I have heard about 9/11 concerns the “Twin Towers” in New York City, but today I learned about what happened at the Pentagon. We walked through the repaired halls of the building where the plane tragically struck the building. We also viewed the memorial for those who lost their lives. When we walked into the memorial, I noticed that the windows are tinted yellow, which gave the room a green tint. I asked Officer Jackson why the windows are such a strange color, and he told me that the tinting blocks out laser microphones. He said that there have been times when cars would drive past, trying to listen to conversations in the memorial.

Emilia Lord

Never Forget

Today my class visited the Pentagon, guided by Officer Jackson, who has been there for fifteen years. My perspective on our country changed significantly as a result of our visit. We spent five hours exploring the building and learning about the deep-rooted principles and values of its military and law enforcement employees. Officer Jackson shared his experiences there, including providing security in the days after 9/11, and he talked about tragedies faced by officers working at the Pentagon. There are many men and women there who put their lives on the line every single day for our safety, which I did not truly understand or appreciate until today. It is astonishing how many people and resources are devoted to responding to emergencies. While the Pentagon recognizes numerous individuals whose contributions have significantly influenced our daily lives, those names are often unknown by the public.

We visited the section of the Pentagon that was attacked on 9/11. The walls of this section are covered with photos, quotations, and remembrance quilts that honor the civilians and military personnel who lost their lives that day. There is a small memorial that includes personal descriptions of those who died that day in the exact spot where we stood. Reading through the pages of descriptions, seeing pictures of the 184 victims (between the ages of three and seventy one), and reading their stories is heartbreaking. Most Americans are familiar with the saying “Never forget.” The Pentagon is more than just a military building. It stands as a physical symbol of those military personnel and civilians who risked and lost their lives, and every victory won by people we may not know, but who will never be forgotten.

U.S. History Through a Prism

African American History Guided Tour

Emilia Lord

“All Gave Some; Some Gave All”

Mary McLeod Bethune Statue

Our tour guide, Dré, said it well: “Learning history is like looking through a prism; how you see it depends on which way you look through it.” Today, my classmates and I went on the African American History Tour. We visited memorials and monuments that represent both beautiful and admittedly ugly aspects of American history. Many of the memorials and monuments have a history and a meaning that lie beneath what the eye can see, and learning about them offers an enlightening view of American history. For example, it was enlightening to learn about why the marble in the Washington Monument is two different shades. Dré explained that the first third of the monument was built by slaves using one kind of marble, while the other two thirds was built after the Civil War, using another kind of marble. While some Americans might know that the monument is two different shades, probably few know why this is the case and what it represents for American history. 

“All gave some; some gave all.” This quotation is etched into the Vietnam Memorial, commemorating the sacrifices of all the young men who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Our country is built on sacrifice, and I think this quotation perfectly summarizes the heartbreaking reality of these sacrifices. Today we visited the memorials to some of those who made the greatest sacrifice for our country, and our presence at the memorials served to honor their stories. My main takeaway from today’s trip is this: to learn the true history of our country, one must look at it from as many perspectives as possible, because much of what we believe we know may not be accurate, and in order to give thanks for our own lives and liberties, we must honor those who sacrificed their own.

Mordecai Coleman

“To understand someone’s life, you have to look outside of what they do for a living”

I was struck by this sentence today as I sat on the bus listening to our tour guide, Dré, tell us about the sometimes hidden meanings of many of the statues here in DC. I had been feeling stuck as I worked on questions for our interviews later in the week, and I was not feeling inspired. Listening to Dré, I realized that I was focusing too much on what our interviewees do for work and what they have accomplished. After thinking about Dré’s comment, I realized that I’m not as interested in getting to know our interviewees through their work as I am in getting to know them by hearing about what excites them outside their work. That I had been focusing on their jobs says something about how American society tends to define people by their jobs and their place in the economy, instead of by their interests and passions. I remember talking to Shannon in our Values class about how the first question she is asked when meeting new people is “what do you do?” and how the answer is always expected to be about one’s work.

Because we have been conditioned to focus on work and the economy, I don’t blame people for asking that question. I have done the same thing, but I think we can change, and I think that we can live more fulfilling lives if we do change.

As we begin our week here in DC, I’m looking forward to testing this new perspective, and trying to learn who the people who work in public service really are.

Amelie Zands

You wake up today choosing who you can be tomorrow

This is my first time in Washington, DC, and so far I have been amazed by its architecture. The buildings range from colorful houses and condos to stunning granite memorials and monuments. However, it is not always possible to understand the history that the monuments represent simply by looking at them. Both the placement and the architecture of a monument are important, but sometimes a story needs to be told to reveal the history.

Today we took the African American History tour, and it was amazing. Our guide Dré explained the contrast between the Mary McLeod Bethune memorial and the Abraham Lincoln memorial, which are placed directly across from one another in Lincoln Park. Dré explained that while Lincoln’s statue looks finished, Bethune’s does not. Further, while Lincoln’s character appears more complicated the more one studies him, Bethune’s appears clearer the more one studies her. The ironic contrast between their styles and imagery helps one understand both the statues and the history behind them, reflecting the complicated culture that we have encountered in DC. Dré explained how the statues can help us understand ourselves: “You wake up today choosing who you can be tomorrow.”