I’m not going to lie, I have been dreading writing this post, my final post (about my experience in DC). In all honesty, I think I was just really dreading the end of my time in DC. All week, I was wondering what words I would use to sum up my summer, to describe the experiences I had, the people I met, the opportunities given to me. And I failed to come up with any words that would fully and accurately convey what this summer meant to me.
While I struggled to find words of my own, quotes from two of the most influential men in our nation’s history kept coming to mind. The first is from John Winthrop who was a leading figure in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and later a governor in the 1600s. As he led the first large wave of immigrants from England to America, Winthrop stated “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
The second quote comes from President Ronald Reagan, which he spoke at his 1988 State of the Union Address:
“It means, too, that the young Americans I spoke of 7 years ago, as well as those who might be coming along the Virginia or Maryland shores this night and seeing for the first time the lights of this Capital City–the lights that cast their glow on our great halls of government and the monuments to the memory of our great men–it means those young Americans will find a city of hope in a land that is free. We can be proud that for them and for us, those lights along the Potomac are still seen this night signaling as they have for nearly two centuries and as we pray God they always will, that another generation of Americans has protected and passed on lovingly this place called America, this shining city on a hill, this government of, by, and for the people.”President Ronald Reagan
Both of these men, centuries apart, referred to our nation with the same sense of awe and hopefulness. As I reflected on these quotes, I wondered to myself, “is America still the shining city upon a hill? Are we still the country that all eyes look upon? And if we are, is that for reasons of which we should be proud? Do we as a nation, and others, still look toward the U.S. with the same awe and hope that Winthrop and Reagan once did?” I am sitting here today, in the kitchen of my sister’s home in Minnesota, typing this entry as our country reels from yet another set of mass shootings. I watch my little sister and young niece playing, beautifully innocent and not knowing of the devastation that many are suffering at this very moment. Are we really passing this nation on, lovingly, to the younger generation of Americans? The key word there is “lovingly.”
Since that day in 1988, we forgot somewhere along the way about that key word that Reagan had hoped we would always remember. With every mass-shooting, every act of hatred and discrimination, it becomes harder and harder to believe that love prevails. But despite this hardship, it is now more important than ever to remember love trumps hate and light will always shine through darkness. The United States is still indeed the shining city upon the hill, and the eyes of all people are still upon us. That is why we must go forward in careful consciousness and be mindful of the image and values we project into the world. We must pass along the America that John Winthrop envisioned and that Ronald Reagan believed in, lovingly to the next generation of young Americans.
Now, you might be wondering why I felt the need to talk about John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan to summarize my experience in the nation’s capital. All summer, at every lecture, site visit, class meeting, etc. there was a central theme focused on the division of our country today, the polarization between the right and left, and our country’s inability to find solutions. The young people of America know that this is not the America we were promised. We know that we can and must be better. That is why I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the Leadership and the American Presidency program co-sponsored by The Fund for American Studies and the Ronald Reagan Institute. It allowed us the chance to bridge the divide between political lines, to learn from one another, and to ponder solutions to the most prominent issues facing our country today. I am happy to report that there is hope. There is a bright future that involves both sides of the aisle coming together. Some may think I sound like a naive democrat, but that’s okay because one day soon my peers and I will be the leaders of this great country, and with every young generation that comes up, we will be better at fulfilling the visions of John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan.
I know this wasn’t the typical weekly update and I didn’t really summarize the last week in DC, but scroll to the bottom for some pictures that summarize better than my words could have!
I want to thank all the staff and faculty at The Fund for American Studies and the Ronald Reagan Institute for an incredible summer. Through so many enriching experiences, I had the opportunity to learn from amazing professionals and leaders, dip my toe into the nonprofit sector, be mentored by amazing and passionate people, debate and have peaceful discourse, see some the greatest monuments and artifacts of our nation’s history and, most of all, learn more about myself. I also want to thank my amazing school, Eureka College and the Sandifer Mentorship for making this experience possible. Thank you to all the staff and faculty that supported and encouraged me throughout this whole process. And thank you to everyone that followed along on this journey, either reading my weekly blog or texting me for updates–it was greatly appreciated! Most of all, the biggest thank you goes to my wonderful family and friends. They are the support system who always encourage me to take the biggest leaps of faith, that never tell me my dreams are too big, that always encourage me to go even when I haven’t been home for months, and who always pick me up. I’m one very blessed gal.
My weekly blog posts may be over, but keep an eye out for some updates in the future. I have a feeling some exciting things are about to happen.