The fourth essay in our NWCCI DC reflection series is one by Jebin Tahera, an NWCCI student from Bangladesh studying Hotel Management at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington. Jebin shares how exciting it was to learn about the history of the United States, and her appreciation of the workshops geared at helping participants turn their “dreams into realities”. She describes how America is a great place to turn dreams into realities and initial thoughts at seeing America’s freedom of speech in action through a protester camped out in front of the White House.
During my trip to Washington, DC, I discovered new information about the history and government of the United States, and most importantly, about all of the extraordinary people who had envisioned the United States of America and how far it would come. Before going on this trip, I thought it would just be a field trip, where we would browse through the capital and take photographs. I was so pleased that I was able to understand more about the United States of America through the trip, and have an amazing time in the capital.
Even though 4 days and nights in Washington DC wasn’t enough to fully experience all that the city had to offer, we did a lot with the amount of time we did have. On our first night, we went on a guided tour of most of the memorials in DC. The Lincoln Memorial and Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial would have to be my favorites. The memorials were beautiful, but I was interested in the engravings on the walls around them. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Memorial had an unfinished portion of a boulder in it. Our guide explained that it was to represent that the movement for civil rights and equality isn’t complete, and that we must always keep fighting for justice because we all deserve it. It made me appreciate true patriotism and I feel that way about my own country, Bangladesh.
Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King were both simple men who fought for the rights of the average human beings. They weren’t obligated to do that. However, they did it, as they believed that every person; man, woman or child of every race; ethnicity, culture and walk of life deserved to have the same opportunities to survive. I don’t think I would have the respect I have for these men now, if I hadn’t been on this trip to DC. The next few days were even more interesting, starting with the walk to the front of the White House.
We all took pictures in front of the White House. It was this striking white building with so much green and security around it.
The most curios aspect for me however, was seeing this man across the street from the White House. He had a sign that protested against war. It was clear that he had been camping out there for a while. I was enthralled by the man’s commitment to his mission. There must be many other Americans who feel the same way as he does, but he has devoted his life to his ideals like none other I have ever seen before.
We went to the Library of Congress afterwards.
As soon I entered, I regretted not being a registered researcher, as in order to go into the reading rooms you had to be one. For people who love to read such as myself, it felt like a treasure trove. Afterwards, we went to the U.S. capitol building. It reminded me of the Supreme Court in my country. It had the lavish dome, which we could see even if we are miles away from it. We had a guided tour inside the U.S. Capitol. It was then that I learned how intricate and complicated the government of the United States of America actually is.
In my country, the prime minister has all the power. She decides what happens to the national budget, she oversees all the laws and bills that get passed, which officials represent the regions and districts and also where and how the voting would take place. I always assumed that the President of America was similar to the prime minister in my country. I came to know after the tour of the Capitol, that it was not the case. There are 465 representatives in Congress; there are senators, governors, secretaries of different departments, judges and the President. All of whom make up the American Government.
I finally understood that this is how a democracy is supposed to function. The people of the country make the decisions, not one random person with power and influence. The most amazing facet however, is that none of the positions I mentioned are permanently assigned to a person or people. They have to prove their skills to be elected and some have to accept that it is over when the time comes.
No President can serve for more than 2 terms, and the people have the power to elect their leader.
The next morning, we had the pleasure of going to the National Museum of American History. The tour guide showed us the early locomotives that had functioned as railroad connections all over America in the 20th century. I was really excited when we saw the pop culture artifacts such as C3PO for Star Wars and Dorothy’s shoes from the Wizard of Oz. We were also fortunate enough to visit the gallery where they had all the gowns worn by the first ladies. It was intriguing for me, because I didn’t know that some first ladies were not necessarily the wives of the presidents. It made sense after the tour guide explained that some of the presidents had been widowers, or separated and even bachelors. I read that before Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lynden Johnson, many first ladies hadn’t been active in the administration aspect of presidency. She was the first wife of the president to have been involved in the administrative process as well.
In my country, there aren’t museums that have exhibits that educate people of rich history. After visiting the museum in DC, I felt that we as a country should attempt to display our stories of success and failure too.
We had one more museum to visit before we went back to our colleges in Washington State. It was the Newseum.
The Newseum is a museum dedicated to the first amendment, which is the freedom of speech. The news coverage of the Vietnam War showed what was really happening to the soldiers, and how devastating it was. To this day, most Americans regret this war the most. This kind of emotion wouldn’t have been evoked if the war wasn’t covered by the press as exclusively as it was. Mary Beth Tinker, a 13 year old girl was suspended for protesting the war. She took her case to court and she won because she had the freedom of speech, as every other American citizen. It was enlightening to see how much they valued their freedom to speak their minds. I haven’t had that luxury myself; I covet it a lot as result; especially after the tour of the Newseum.
I believe that we are very fortunate because the U.S. Department of State arranged a seminar for us to be able to transform our ideas into reality. There are so many of us who come from developing countries that could benefit from our visions. In order to make my dreams into reality, I need to be determined and articulate exactly what I want. It was so simple. We did a networking session after. I really think that it helped to teach me how connect better with others and how to carry myself in a professional situation. Both of these skills would further my career, if I did it right. On our final day, we went to the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery.
While touring the Pentagon, I saw that most of the presidents of the United States of America had been officials in the Department of Defense, in one way or another. It makes sense that the people would elect leaders who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. I also learned that until the 1970’s, there were no female combat pilots.
We don’t have female combat pilots in our country yet, but seeing that until 40 years ago America didn’t have any either, made me realize that women’s empowerment still has a long way to go. I aspire to be one of the voices in my country that promotes women’s empowerment.
I am not an enthusiast when going to cemeteries so I only visited one grave at the Arlington Cemetery. It was the collective grave of the Kennedys. John F. Kennedy died over 50 years ago, but his ideals have remained with the people quite firmly. The people know how to properly respect and mourn their great leaders. There haven’t been many leaders like that in my country, but I am hopeful that we will have someone who will deserve our respects long after their gone.
During the course of 10 months here, I have learned so much about not only this country, but also myself. The trip to Washington DC was helpful because it was fun but we also learned many new things. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity given to me by the U.S. Department of State.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.