On the morning of March 28, I, along with 10 other students and one advisor, departed from Minneapolis International Airport for Washington, D.C. We were headed there to participate in a program put on by the Close Up foundation.
The goal of the Close Up foundation is to inform, inspire, and empower young people to exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. In essence, their goal is to help improve our political efficacy. They do this through giving the program’s participants a “close up” view of our government and of ways in which they can make an impact as young adults.
On the night of our arrival, the program got underway with a liberal versus conservative debate on current issues. This debate helped to lay the foundation for what we would be learning throughout the week.
In the next two days we visited many of the most memorable memorials, each one accompanied by a workshop that helped us to form our own opinions about some of the topics discussed at the debate. The highlight of these days for me would be our visit to the national mall, which includes the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam and Korean War memorials. After studying each memorial, our groups discussed whether or not we thought the memorials were glorifying war or memorializing it.
The following days we spent on Capitol Hill. We got the chance to meet with our senators and representative to discuss current issues and how they are effecting our region. These meetings were a gateway to our mock congress activity. We got to act as members of congress and discuss pressing bills, vote, and then try to pass them.
Our last days in D.C. were spent exploring the city with our group from Waseca. We got to visit many historic places including Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.
Every place that we visited taught us more and more about our government and what it means to be an American citizen. The wonderful leaders with the Close Up program helped to guide us through an exploration of our own political standings and assisted us with forming our own views on government. We learned not just the need to speak up about our opinions but also the need to listen to the opinions of others.
Although we spent just six days in our nation’s capital we, as a group, absorbed a profound knowledge of what it means to live in a democracy that dates back centuries. This trip was truly an awe inspiring and eye opening experience.