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February 24-25, 2016

The last time I was in Washington D.C. was for the Junior National Young Leadership Conference the summer before I entered sixth grade. Now, returning as a freshman in college, my world view has altered and I have grown my tree of knowledge. Studying politics and learning about the historical events that have shaped our country, I am still that young, almost middle schooler that loved to debate as well as learn from other students’ perspectives. Therefore, the opportunity to tour the East Wing of The White House with the Wake the Vote cohort was a remarkable experience. We got the inside scoop on the details for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C. that is opening September 24, 2016. We explored the red room, where President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the document that ordered the withdrawal of troops from the Reconstruction states in order to restore local control, and saw the only painting that was saved (the portrait of George Washington) from when the British succeeded in burning down The White House during the second year of the War of 1812.  

One of the most memorable parts of the Washington D.C. adventure was meeting with Congresswoman Alma S. Adams of the 12th congressional district in North Carolina. She discussed education reform, higher education, and her success in launching the Bipartisan Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus. I also remember Congresswoman Adams distinctly expressing that “we need more women in politics”. Not only was that encouraging and motivational as an aspiring politician, but it made me feel empowered and ready to insert myself in the cutthroat, yet rewarding world of American politics.  

That same day, February 25th, I had the opportunity to meet with my congressman from the 10th congressional district of Illinois, Mr. Bob Dold. We chatted and I met the rest of his staff, people that had come to my high school in Illinois to speak to our AP Government and Politics classes. It was a unique flashback to the period in my life when I started to realize that I wanted to work in the government. 

Lastly, Wake The Vote had the opportunity to meet with policy advisors in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) that talked about their experiences as White House interns and the initiatives that they are currently working on such as sexual assault on college campuses and empowering young girls in inner city schools. As a member of the Girl Up United Nations organization through the Wake Forest University chapter, hearing Jordan Brooks, Deputy Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, and Kalisha Dessources, Policy Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls speak to us college students was an incredible experience. Just hearing about their backgrounds and how they ended up working in D.C. was inspiring. Every panelist was in their late 20s. Their ambition is contagious. We could tell how hardworking and passionate each of them are. What is fascinating is that each of them is super passionate about specific issues and as their job, they have worked under the Obama administration and have succeeded in implementing programs to either fix or improve the lives of millions of Americans; talk about a dream job!

Wake the Vote bleeds red, white, and blue.

Hopefully you will see some of us working in The White House or voting in Congress in the upcoming decades!

-Daniella Feijoo

 

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