The goal of the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) is to strengthen other societies by developing capable young professionals who will acquire advanced skills, leadership abilities, and an understanding of American society, democracy and culture. In this last reflection in the NWCCI series of essays from the trip to Washington DC earlier this year, Syed Hafeez Ullah from Pakistan depicts exactly why the Community College Initiative program is such a powerful educational tool. Hafeez is an NWCCI student studying journalism at Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington. He shares with us how inspired he was by visiting some of America’s most beloved memorials, learning their history, and discovering the Newseum’s tribute to the importance of freedom of speech.
I have been to many places across the United States of America, including California, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Virginia. But in Washington D.C, I was able to visit the White House, Newseum (which is related to my own field of study: journalism), the Capitol, the Library of Congress, Museum of American History and the Holocaust Museum. While walking through these museums, I was able to learn about many sub-categories in culture and history in the United States.
For instance, the Holocaust Memorial Museum provided great documentation, information and interpretation of the Holocaust. There, I learned about the history of the Nazis and Jews in Germany; which I never studied in proper school or in my institutional curriculum. I learned that the Holocaust was a big turning point in history, and a beginning to another fight for showing that everyone is equal. I absorbed the meaning of victimization and submission. It was really hurtful to see the brutality done by Hitler and the Nazis, especially when I saw a model of an Auschwitz gas chamber and crematorium created by a Polish artist. The pictures hanging on the walls and writings from the victims gave me just a sense of the brutality; there are such unjust and inhumane events in history.
I cannot forget the moment I saw a quote written by Elie Wiesel on the wall, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
The most memorable part of this museum was the Hall of Remembrance. The Hall of Remembrance is a simple, solemn space designed for public ceremonies and individual reflection. The walls encircle an eternal flame and are inscribed with the names of concentration and death camps. There I memorialized the event by lighting a candle, visiting an eternal flame, and reflecting in silence in the hexagonal hall. The Holocaust Museum was one of the biggest (and perhaps most emotional) and informative places that I visited in Washington D.C.
Next, the visit to the Newseum was to me the most important part of my Washington D.C trip, particularly because I know that my country is dangerous for reporting. There was a quote written on the wall by former Washington Post president and publisher Philip L.Graham, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” I found myself looking at my own career and profession in the Newseum and it connected me to career goals and future plans. For the first time in my life, I saw all the mediums of journalism in one building; newspapers from the 19th and 20th centuries took me back through the history of media.
The pictures of lost journalists in field reporting gave me the confidence to have a “voice for the voiceless.”
I saw the newsroom (the area in a newspaper or broadcasting office where news is written and edited) and it reminded me of the difference between this one and newsrooms in Pakistan. This room was full of modern equipment and facilities. Some of the other most surprising of these were a piece of the Berlin Wall, newspapers in all languages, and a plane fragment from the attack on September 11th. But my favorite thing in the Newseum was the display of the evolution of media and the difficulties faced by it.
I am very thankful to NWCCI and the State Department of the United States for arranging such an informative exposure to Washington D.C. I take great interest in learning about differences in culture and values and respecting those differences. I discovered American values in Washington D.C through the historical perspectives and as a result of the trip to Washington D.C, I plan to learn more about American history, politics and democracy and importantly, their culture and values.
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.