Alioune Dia ’22, reflects on how shared experiences can lead to great conversations.
If today was any indication of what was to come for this group experientially and internally, then “excited” would be an understatement in terms of describing how I feel and hopefully how many of us will feel in the coming days. Our morning began with a trip to the oldest congressional house building in DC, the Canon Building, to engage in a rare one on one dialogue with Massachusetts representative and ranking chair member of the House Rules Committee Jim McGovern. Generally, he brought into perspective the idea that beyond the optics and stiltedness of politics lies an important duty to represent one’s ever-changing constituency as best they can through their own moral lens. His collected and approachable mannerisms also shed light to the reality that politicians are still human at the end of the day.
Such was the impression Republican representative Zeldin also gave when we met him and a member of his staff at the Republican National Committee Headquarters. He spoke of his family’s past medical complications and his time in the military, and how both shaped the type of statesmen (i.e. genuine and competent representative), not mere talking-point filled politician, he wishes to be. Following our meeting with both representatives, some of us toured the National Mall while others understandably went to dry off in our well-serviced hotel.
Around noon, we had lunch with DA alum Meredith McGraw, who shed light on her busy yet rewarding life as a female journalist in politics and her current position as a journalist for Politico. Among many foci, some of her work has been dedicated to stories on Trumpism – that is, the ideologies, social emotions, style of governance, political movement, and modes of sustaining political power associated with Donald Trump.
Following that, some took more time to marvel at the humbling Beaux-Arts and Greco-Roman inspired architecture stationed throughout the National Mall. Others relaxed until dinner time when we engaged in one of the most rich conversations about civic discourse any group of people could have. Instead of spilling out our politically-infused emotions and coordinating attacks toward a peer with opposing viewpoints, we actually listened to arguments about the reality of current civic discourse and the changes in conversational approaches that could happen to move political dialogue forward and give way to the possibility of not only understanding, but also learning and transforming – specifically as it relates to one’s own prioritized set of stories.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the programming of the day was executed in spite of the spirited rains and slush that greeted us throughout the streets of D.C. This makes it all the more important to acknowledge Mr. Flaska, who managed the small issues and technical side of things, and without complaint, throughout the day. And on behalf of the entire group, I’d like to extend my thanks to the admirable coordination, consistency, and hard work of our trip leaders (and just wonderful people), Ms. La Puma and Mr. Lim. Thank you all for an amazing first day, and may we be displaced, shifted, and reshuffled into new and more nuanced positions of thought regarding our own prioritized stories – that is, the collection of memories and perspectives we understand and desire to raise awareness about in the future.
-Alioune Dia ’22