WCSC Student Blog

category: News

Rob Alderfer Bumps into Nancy Pelosi (Interning at Faith & Politics Institute)

August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

This past Friday I was able to attend the all day board meeting that takes place twice each year. This was a great experience and I like several aspects. The first was just getting to enjoy the Capitol building early in the morning while some familiar faces came in to work. While I was manning my post, waiting for board members to lead on to our designated room, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked right past me with her secret service detail. I don’t get star struck in D.C., but I did text my Mom right away because she likes to hear about that sort of thing. The actual meeting was dry sometimes and more interesting at other points. I sat a few seats away from U.S. Ambassador Thomas Graham, who I appreciate on more than one level. His work is primarily with nuclear non-proliferation, and he was involved with the SALT Treaty and SMART and SMART II after the Cold War. He also has a quick, dry wit, and doesn’t spend much time on picking apart the boring details of the Institute. I decided that I like his style.

Highlights from Capitol Hill: Will Morris

August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

Interning was a little more interesting this past week. I still sorted plenty of mail and answered lots of phones, but I also had more briefing opportunities. The first opportunity was the result of an error; I had lost my badge earlier in the week and on Monday went to ID Services to get a temporary one, since I was going to attend a briefing in the Capitol building that required an ID to get in. I found out later that they don’t issue interns temporary IDs, but the guy at the desk forgot to check and issued me a staff ID. Armed with this greater source of power, I returned to the office where our Legislative Director sent me to (what I found out afterwards was) a last minute Chiefs of Staff/LD only briefing in the House Majority Leader’s office.

It was boring briefing (probably why I was sent) on appropriations procedure for freshman Democratic congressmen’s offices, but I still felt privileged to be there. I just stayed real quiet, took good notes, and minded my own business so no one would confront me and it worked.

I also went to two other briefings, one on “Quality of Life and Palliative Care” and the other on “Challenges of Venture Capital Investment and Economic Development in Rural Communities.” They were slightly more interesting than the first.

There were three other events of note this week. The first concerned Rahm Emanuel calling our office out of the blue for Congressman Perriello, who happened to be out of the office. We were all somewhat flustered and star-struck that he would call our humble office personally. The second interesting thing was Congressman Perriello appearing on TV during an MSNBC interview Monday morning. He did well, and we all laughed at how the Republican pundit sitting to his right seemed to be “fawning,” in the words of an intra-office email, over the Congressman.

The last event of note happened when I went to the soup kitchen for lunch yesterday; I randomly ran into the very first BVSer at the soup kitchen from when it started in the late 1970s, who also coincidently went to college with my father and an uncle.

Jason Godshall’s Adventure-Filled Family Visit!

August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

Friday and Saturday my family was visiting me from Pennsylvania. They went to the National Zoo while I was at work then I met up with them after I was finished. We ended up going to Georgetown for dinner to Bangkok Bistro, a Thai restaurant that did not impress anyone from my family.

On Saturday we started the day off by heading down to the Aquatic Gardens. My dad and brother enjoy gardening and keeping our fish pond in our backyard so the Aquatic Gardens were right up their alley. A little after we arrive it started to rain, then pour, and then thunder and lightning. One lightning strike was extremely close, so close that my whole family and another nearby family all felt shocks on our fingers and backs from the lightning. That was a scary experience; I had never felt that in my life.

Next on the itinerary was the Corcoran Gallery which happened to be free that Saturday! On our way to the Corcoran we stopped in front of the White House which was a very hopping area full of tourists taking pictures. I am not sure but at one point the police made everyone get off of the side walk and they closed it down. As they were doing so we saw security and possibly snipers appear on the lawn and the roof. Soon the sidewalk open again a new group of tourists gathered.

There was a really interesting expedition on display at the Corcoran called Systematic Landscapes. This expedition was made up of multiple sculptures of hills and bodies of water, some made out of layers or plywood, some made out of two by fours, and some made out of wire.

My parents were very impressed with Eatonville and greatly enjoyed the food and the service. I was fortunate to have Andy Shallal, the owner, in the restaurant so I could have him meet my parents.

Learning the Restaurant Trade: Jason Godshall

August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

I finally started a new job this week. I am now an Expo and a food-runner. Last week I did this for a day and really liked it. It is a job that does not get very boring. The Expo is the line of communication between the staff in the front of the restaurant, food runners and servers, and the staff in the back of the restaurant, food-prep and cooks. The Expo also tells the food runners where to take which plates of food which can get extremely hectic when the restaurant is full of customers. So far I have really enjoyed being the Expo and also a food-runner. I am a person that enjoys staying busy, I do not like standing around with nothing to do, which is what I did a lot while the host.

Anacostia River Canoe Trip, by Alyssa Borucki

August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

After watching the movie about the Anacostia River, I was quite disgusted by the way people treat this body of water. This river is an important part of the culture of the community, slowly getting stomped on due to pollution. I learned that people’s sewage goes into the river, along with things from storm drains, store run offs, and a dump site for companies. I was not looking forward to the canoe trip down this trash infested river.

I was very surprised by my surroundings when we started our trip down river. The river was kind of gross, but there was not as much trash as I was expecting from seeing the movie. This trip was a relaxing time to see a side of the suburbs of DC and get closer connections with housemates. I think having the race between the four canoes was the most fun I’ve had with our group, laughing and being silly. Granted, we’ve had way too many laughs with crazy stories, but it was just a fun experience exploring the waters. Even though the canoes were really spread out I took the time I had to truly get to know two housemates I have had very little one on one time with. Mattie and I canoed with John and Will, who we also drove with, and had some good conversations.

I was really pleased on what I got out of the trip learning about the locus flowers; water lillies, the invasive magenta plants, how to canoe, how the river was used before this century, and how to enjoy nature even if it isn’t at its best primped stages and all glamed up.

Karissa’s Internship Takes Congress Members on Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama

March 27th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

My internship at The Faith & Politics Institute has been an exciting plunge into the world of Capitol Hill.  Faith & Politics, an interfaith organization, works to bridge the divides in our society by providing opportunities for members of Congress to unite their work with principles of compassion, healing, and forgiveness.

Because of FPI’s relationships with those in the political world, I’ve been able to have experiences like attending the Attorney General’s confirmation hearing and seeing President Obama speak in the Capitol building.  My most meaningful opportunity, however, was when we led a congressional civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama.  With almost 200 guests, including more than two dozen members of Congress, diplomats, media personalities, and others, we traveled to Alabama to visit civil rights historical sites and to hear from those involved in the movement.  I rode on the same bus as Congressman John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement, and heard heartbreaking stories of the hate and violence he experienced.  I participated in a role play led by Rev. Jim Lawson, the nonviolent theorist who studied under Gandhi and taught nonviolence to Martin Luther King, Jr. and others involved in the civil rights movement.  I marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 44 years after hundreds of African-Americans were brutally attacked by state troopers there during a peaceful march for voting rights.

Of all these experiences and others, my favorite moment came in a small church in Selma.  The daughter of former Alabama governor George Wallace, the segregationist who famously tried to stop the desegregation of the University of Alabama, introduced the morning speaker, Attorney General Eric Holder.  Holder, our first black Attorney General, is also the brother-in-law of one of the students Governor Wallace blocked from entering the University of Alabama.  Seeing the reconciliation of these two families and hearing them both express forgiveness and a desire for healing, along with an acknowledgement of the work yet to be done, brought tears to my eyes.  It was a beautiful example of the possibilities for racial reconciliation and reignited my hope that our country can find restoration and healing in other areas of conflict.  I was reminded that faith and politics don’t need to be mutually exclusive, and that the principles that guide my life through faith can and should be related to my opinions about public policy.  I am hopeful that, as a nation, we can learn from the tragic mistakes of our past and move forward in reconciliation and healing.

Karissa Sauder

Inauguration (Janelle Freed)

March 27th, 2009 – by Emily Benner

‘I can’t believe I’m here witnessing a great change in history.’ This quote was spoken from a woman behind me as Obama gave his inaugural address to millions before him.  This quote is not the thought of one, it’s echoed in the minds and hearts of the millions packed in a confining mall on the 20th of January, a Tuesday.  Although the full scope of Obama’s presidency will take years, even decades into the future to comprehend, there seemed to be a dignified solidarity among many Americans and people around the world, all hoping for change.

Growing up in a generation where the gap between negatively recognizing people’s differences, such as the color of their skin, is coming to a close.  Maybe I’m naïve; this could be my optimistic personality seeping through, however I’m recognizing that my generation and those younger than me seem to appreciate what makes each person unique.  Rather than judging based on religious orientation, race, or gender, people are drawing conclusions based on others characteristics.  Clearly nominating and electing an African American President never crossed the minds of my parents or grandparents generation.  A shift, or change if one will, is beginning to take place where the Emancipation Proclamation is finally being fulfilled.

Obama too identifies this change.  In his inaugural address, Obama commented on how the world is changing and we need to change with it.  This I believe on all levels; everyday brings about new challenges and room for growth.

As I reflect on my experience in the bitter cold, waiting nine hours to hear the swearing in of the first African American President, my mind begins to imagine the future.  What other milestones in history will I get the change to witness?

Most importantly, I’m glad that I can forever say I witnessed the swearing in of the first African American President.  As I hope for change, for world peace, and world citizenship, I still question how much I’m willing to change.

Pictures (click on Jake to see all)

November 14th, 2008 – by Emily Benner


Courtney Miller on Community and Dance Place

October 30th, 2008 – by Emily Benner

The main thing I got from reading [Widening the Circle] was that community is very important, but is something that our culture really doesn’t value anymore….It gives the comparison of community to food. I thought that this was a great analogy because (being Mennonite) the most popular activity in my communities is…eating. The author mentions how “When people in community have their own individual food “stashes” or personal preferences which are indulged privately, it sooner or later leads to isolation and separation from others, whereas sharing food, and agreeing on dietary guidelines brings people together.”

against hip-hop dance. Rennie really makes his audience think….This past weekend was a very big weekend for Dance Place. Saturday was the big fundraiser benefit. We had a tribute to hip-hop artist Rennie Harris. His performance was brilliant. From watching him up on stage he put so much in his dance. Through his work he told stories from his life and after the performance he told the audience a little about his traveling hip hop company. He told of the stereotypes that are often heldI’m thrilled to have the chance to work with and see so many talented artists. I’m beginning to feel at home at Dance Place.

Sweet Honey in the Rock

October 24th, 2008 – by Emily Benner

Some of the students at WCSC have sung choir versions of songs by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Tonight we’re all going to see them in person!  “Wanting Memories” and “Who We Are (For Each Child That’s Born)” are two of my favorites.  I saw a documentary on this group, and it was downright inspirational.  4 and a half more hours til opening…