Monday January 12th marked the last day of the W&M DC Winter in Washington Seminar; the program went by so fast! It was a lot of work, but the things we all learned in such a short amount of time and the experiences we had made it all worth it! On our last day we went to the Pew Research Center to meet with Michele Waslin and hear him speak about immigration. The best thing about meeting with someone who works at a think tank is that even though they have their own personal opinions regarding their research, most of what what they put it out is pure fact. Michele gave a great presentation that was objective, factual, and meaningful because she was able to teach us about immigration reform without pushing her own personal agenda on us. In Washington, you can be very hard-pressed to find folks like that! We discussed the Dream Act, how federal policies affect states and localities, migration as a global issue, state vs. federal government agendas towards immigration reform, and U.S. past trends regarding the issue. The discussions that resulted were just as informative as her presentation and it was refreshing to have an objective conversation about a hot-topic national political issue without anyone trying to push their own personal beliefs on each other.
In the afternoon we had a three person Tea Party panel – Jason Torchinsky, Casey Higgins, and Nicole Bibbins came and spoke with us about what the Tea Party is all about. The best aspect about the panel was that it gave us personal access to Tea Party members who could give us their personal beliefs and reasonings behind their political affiliation. In the media, Tea Party members are either portrayed in a very loving or distasteful manner, and it can be hard to form an objective opinion about the party itself without knowing people who classify themselves as members. The panel offered its opinion on current political issues and international affairs from the view of the Tea Party while also backing up their beliefs in a logical manner. The panel was very educated, politically informed, and engaging; I’m positive all students left the panel with a clearer understanding of what the Tea Party generally stands for.
At the end of the day, both the politics and education classes had a wonderful dinner at a Mexican restaurant near the W&M DC Office in Dupont Circle. The food provided was absolutely delicious and the conversation was wonderful. As we all reminisced on the past few days of the seminar, it was hard to believe we were already saying ‘bye to each other. The seminar was incredibly packed with so many great speakers, information, tours, and events that the ten days simply flew by. For anyone considering applying to this program, I would highly recommend being prepared to work hard, but also be prepared and open to learning new things, new people, and new ideas.