Like many NWCCI students, Arslan Mehmood never imagined that the possibility of visiting America’s capital, Washington DC, would become a reality. While studying on the Department of State funded Northwest CCI program scholarship in Washington, he discovered that he would also be able to make a special, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington, DC during his time in the U.S. In this reflection, Arslan, an NWCCI student from Pakistan, studying media at Pierce College in Lakewood describes his first thoughts as he visited the real-life sights that he had dreamed about one day visiting, and had previously only read about in his history books.
Being a student of political science, and a journalist by profession, it was my ardent wish to visit Washington D.C. All the places that I visited there were amazing, but the aspect I liked the most was the preservation of the history in the USA, whether in the shape of a rock (statue), or on a paper. I was really inspired by how the government of the USA presents a relatively unbiased and balanced reflection on history. The reason being, we also have such monuments in Pakistan, but sadly they lack representing the actualities of history.
I visited the memorials of Vietnam and the Korean War. I was surprised that, despite sometimes being labeled as controversial, the citizens regard their fallen soldiers in high esteem and respect. To me, this co-existence of opposing viewpoints is the true color of a true democracy.
My next visit was to the Newseum. I would say that this is the “Heaven” of journalism. From the journalist’s accomplishments, to giving their lives in the line of duty, everything to tell their story was perfectly placed and designed. From that visit, I learned how much the USA places importance to the values of free press, and especially freedom of speech. Freedom to express rival views is the corner-store of a well-established, working mechanism of a great democracy, like the USA. I came to the conclusion that unless people are given access to information detrimental to their standards and value of life, a democracy is just a tool of the exploitation. The third world nations, particularly Pakistan, must take appropriate measures in this regard to achieve, what Abraham Lincoln once described as:
“A government of the people, for the people, and by the people.”
The most amazing thing that I saw in the Newseum was the piece of the Berlin Wall. I have studied extensively about the dynamics of international politics, and it was, therefore, a wonderful piece of history to look upon and to learn about. Next, I visited the U.S. Capitol building. Irrespective of the magnificence of the architecture, the thing that I pondered was, for a nation to lead global politics; its internal policies should first strengthen the bases of national values, cultures and outlook. It was really thought-provoking to learn about Susan B. Anthony, who struggled to make women’s right to vote a reality. Her dream would come really true, if Hillary Clinton makes the White House her home.
My next visit was to the Lincoln Memorial. I have studied the American Civil War, but when I went there to visit, it became amazingly real. I learned how Abraham Lincoln struggled hard to abolish the scourge of slavery, despite facing tremendous challenges, both social and electoral. I realized how the USA has gone through ups and downs in its long history. After learning about the time of tribulation in the history of the USA, I compared it to the present state of affairs in my home country of Pakistan. I hope that one day; our nation will also reflect upon and overwhelm the harsh circumstances to become a global power broker.
As far as the international politics are concerned, the Pentagon is considered the nerve-center of American foreign policy. When we visited the Pentagon, I was amazed to see the security arrangements placed at the entrance of the building. Unlike Pakistan, everyone, even uniformed personnel, was put under proper security and scanner checks. I learned there that the Pentagon serves as the joint headquarters of all military services. It helps expedite threat assessment and quick decision making.
In the Pentagon, I visited the 9/11 monument. It filled me with the sense of despair and sadness, and I grasped how America remembers their martyrs. This visit was followed by a visit to the National Arlington Cemetery, which was also a splendid example of paying tribute to, and commemorating the fallen members of the US Armed Forces.
Lastly, I would like to say that it was an amazing visit. I am sad only because I could not visit the White House and the Ford’s Theater, but they are on my waiting list.
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.