Badass trips on a not-so-badass budget.
Our final full day in DC was just as busy as our first three. We got an early start at the Department of Health and Human Services. This particular meeting is one that I’d been anticipating for some time. We got to meet with Deputy Secretary of Healthcare Jason Young (who, to me, is basically a celebrity). And I got a photo with him!
We learned about the White House’s communications strategy regarding implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and I got to ask tons of questions. Our supervisors made sure they knew that I was interested in working in health care strategic communications. Plus I got to meet their current assistant, an SMU alum who interned at the White House. And he’s promised to put in a good word for me when I apply for it!
We stopped outside of the Capitol for a photo opp on our way to Twenty-First Century for lunch.
They are the biggest corporate communications and lobbying firms in the nation, and they’re the only one with a live-in gourmet chef. He made lunch for us and it was phenomenal. We got to speak with Jocelyn Hong, one of their top professionals, and a trailblazer for women in the lobbying industry. That was quite a treat.
Our next visit was to Texas Senator John Cornyn’s office in the Senate building. We got to speak with an SMU alum who is working as his legislative aide, as well as with his speechwriter. Their experiences were eye-opening. I will definitely be considering internships on the Hill in the future.
Our final meeting was with a head reporter at the Center for Public Integrity. His specialty, campaign finance, has been a really interesting area during the Shutdown, and we got to hear all about it. A previous Politico writer, this journalist was extremely knowledgeable. It was fascinating.
Our final event at Hilltop on the Hill was an alumni reception that we (the current students) hosted at a historic bar. We got to interact with all of the SMU alums who work in Washington D.C. in a more casual setting, and learn more about what they do and how they got there. I spent a good chunk of time speaking with one of Candy’s old colleagues, who ended up reaching out to me the next morning regarding applying for an internship at his firm. I guess it’s true what they say: in Washington it really is all about who you know! I’m completely fine with that, since I’ve met only intelligent, kind, sincere people here. Hilltop on the Hill has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possible career paths… and I can’t wait to declare my minor in Communications studies and begin exploring them!
We began our second day in DC with a powerbar and coffee to go. There was no time to spare as we rushed to our first appointment at Edelman, a large communications firm.
That’s me in the grey blazer. They told us all about their work with clients, managing their branding and marketing, and monitoring social media. It was fascinating. Here’s a photo of me and Lauren with one of the inspiring SMU alums:
After our meeting with Edelman we stopped for lunch at a pub where we were split into small groups, each with one supervisor, for an etiquette lesson. I have never experienced a “proper DC powerlunch” before, so it was a really unique learning experience for me.
With no time to waste, we headed to our meeting with ExxonMobil. We heard from two powerful women, both prior colleagues of Dr. Duhe (one of our faculty supervisors). One worked in International communications, while the other dealt with domestic issues.
After ExxonMobil we crammed into two taxis and rushed over to the CNN building. This particular visit was one of my favorites of the trip.
We got to see where they tape CNN breaking news reports, we got to see the tech lab where they put it all together, they even let us sit at Jake Tapper’s desk where they record The Lead!
And if all that wasn’t enough to overwhelm me, as we were walking past his office, Wolf Blitzer came out to chat with us! By the time we left, we had him “ponying up” like the best of ‘em. It was amazing to hear his insights on his field and why he chose it.
We also got to hear from their head of political journalism, and one of their long-time journalists. I asked her how she avoided partisan bias in her stories, and she told me, “it’s easy: the longer I’ve worked on the Hill, the more I’ve come to just hate everybody. Party is irrelevant; they all lie.” It was an illuminating experience.
Our final meeting of the day took place at Glover Park, Candy’s prior employer. A strategic communications firm that emerged from the remnants of Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign in the early 90s, it was amazing to hear about how far the firm has come since then. It is incredibly successful now, with a slew of high-profile clients. Glover Park is another firm I could easily see myself working at one day.Our day finished with a trip to the White House (and a visit to the tent lady protestor across the street). It was a great way to end the day.
Our second day in Washington DC was a busy one. We started with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. It was a poignant visit for me especially, as one of my grandfathers is buried there. We visited JFK’s grave and the Eternal Flame that marks it. The quote engraved in the wall looking out over the Capitol really touched me:
Now the trumpet summons us again
Not as a call to bear arms
- though embattled we are
But a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle
A struggle against the common enemies of man Tyranny - Poverty - Disease - and War itself…
JFK is truly an inspiration for those of us who feel inclined towards public service. Seeing where he was laid to rest was so special, especially knowing that he was assassinated in my own home town. We were also fortunate enough to witness the changing of the guard. It was a powerful experience for us all.
Afterwards, we visited the Newseum, where I more or less fell in love.
I consider myself a political junkie, so visiting a museum dedicated to journalism, news, and politics was an incredible opportunity for me.
We were also lucky enough to join the taping of Kitty Kelley’s lecture over her new biographies of JFK and MLK Junior. I caught up to her after her lecture and got to ask her about her next book, which will be about the role of women in the Senate.
After leaving the Newseum we returned to our hotel to meet with two SMU alumni who work as Communications professionals in Washington D.C. One of them was particularly interesting to me. He worked for the Progressive Policy Institute, Bill Clinton’s think tank. His line of work is definitely one I would be interested in pursuing.
After an early flight (6am!), a layover, and navigating my way through the Washington DC metro system, I arrived at our hotel feeling excited and competent. It’s amazing how I feel more and more comfortable with traveling alone as I experience it more.
I checked in, explored the area a bit (we were two blocks from the White House!), and met my two roommates, Elena and Briana (both Corporate Communications majors).
We met with the rest of our group for a meeting in the hotel lobby, during which we learned the parameters of our trip and what was expected from us (one blog post/day and a hand-written thank you note on personalized stationary for each person who met with us).
After we had changed for dinner, we walked through the historic district, stopping for a photo outside of the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, one of the only businesses that survived the mobs after Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination in 1965.
We stopped for dinner in one of Candy’s (one of our supervisors) favorite Ethiopian restaurants, called Etete.
The ethnic clusters of restaurants in Washington was intriguing- I can’t wait to come back and experience more new and interesting cuisine.
I should have blogged about my activities before, but as soon as I returned to SMU I was overwhelmed with midterms (yikes…). Now that I have some time to breathe, I will be posting in detail what we got to do while in Washington D.C.!
by Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations (via screwsociety)