Drake visits D.C.

February 7, 2013 6:00 AMComments Off

Bedore is a junior public relations major and can be reached at gabriella.bedore@drake.edu
Photo courtesy of Abby Bedore

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Eleven days. That’s all it took for 25 Drake University students to fall in love with Washington, D.C. 

From tourist stops to cupcake shops and meeting strangers and making lifelong friends, Drake’s J-term class Inside Washington: The Presidential Inauguration, was the trip of a lifetime.

Led by Rachel Paine Caufield, a professor of politics, and Jill Van Wyke, an assistant professor of journalism, the class filled its trip with academic lectures, site tours, alumni visits and group discussions. Everything we experienced in the first 10 days built up to the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

Our class was run in conjunction with The Washington Center (TWC) academic seminar, also based in D.C. Housing at TWC put us within walking distance of the National Mall and just four blocks away from the Metro station. Our time in D.C. started with a scavenger hunt and navigating public transportation, and the Metro proved to be the most efficient way to get across town for site tours or just another cupcake.

Every morning, TWC brought in distinguished speakers such as Eugene Kang, special projects coordinator and assistant to the president, and President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist. Other speakers included Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, Brian Lamb and Bill Dauster. Each presented a different way to look at current events in the U.S. and challenged us to see multiple sides of an issue.

Every afternoon, site visits would teach the class more about politics in Washington. We made all the major stops in D.C. at museums, the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the White House and the Brookings Institute. Thanks to one Drake alumnus, we even spent an evening bowling in the White House — though the actual location is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door. Our service project at “Bread for the City” showed us yet another side of D.C. and left us with a well-rounded understanding of the city’s culture.

Inauguration Day was an experience in itself. At 5:30 a.m., we took off to secure the first spots in line to pass through the gates. As we filtered into our sections, we bared the cold and watched the sun rise over the Capitol. After six hours of standing and waiting, we watched President Obama take the oath of office, all the while taking in what we had learned throughout the week. Watching this historic moment alone made seven total hours of standing in the cold worthwhile.

While all of our seminars and site visits provided us with knowledge and insight to politics and how the government runs in D.C., I think everyone would agree that experiencing the “Drake connection” was one of the best parts of our trip.

Almost every day, Drake alumni welcomed us into their offices to show us what it’s like to work in D.C. They shared their experiences and gave us tips over lunches, dinners and at a networking reception. Seeing so many alumni in D.C. showed the class that Drake alumni can be found anywhere and they are always willing to lend a helping hand.

We found another Drake connection during Drake in D.C. Before the trip began, everyone joked about being a “happy, cohesive group” in D.C., but it did not take long for this joke to become reality. It’s one thing to take part in an experience such as the inauguration; it’s another for a whole class to share the experience and come back to campus as friends. Thank you, Drake University, for providing this opportunity, and thank you to our professors and the happy, cohesive group for making this trip an unforgettable experience.

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