Washington D.C. is where this trip comes together. After traveling for 31 days learning about politics, activism, and history, there is no better place for our last new city than D.C. It is where issues we have talked about and debated are used to create laws for our beautiful country. That is why today was the best on Etgar 36 yet!
After spending the night in Fairfax, Virginia, we woke up to beautiful, sunny weather. It was only a 33 minute ride to the heart of Washington D.C., which is my favorite part of the hotel. I believe that the road into Washington D.C. is remarkable, due to all the monuments we can see from the bus. It is amazing to see this different kind of skyline. This is not my first time in Washington D.C., but, walking off the bus onto the streets of D.C. was still special. I call it the “D.C. magic” because you get the feeling that something big might happen at any moment.
At Etgar 36, one of the goals is to make our history textbooks come alive and have the opportunity to speak to walking textbooks about the issues. We had such an opportunity at our first meeting of the day, which was with Senior Chief Deputy Democratic Whip of the United States House of Representatives, John Lewis. John Lewis represents the 5th district of Georgia, which includes the city of Atlanta and some suburban areas. He happens to be the representative of three Etgarians: Rachel Kaufmann, Rebecca Greenberg, and Billy Planer. Many Etgarians – myself included – felt honored to be in the presence of the renowned congressman. After all, John Lewis is the last living member of the eminent “Big Six.” The “Big Six” was a name for the prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Having learned about the movement and experienced its landmarks first-hand only added to our excitement to meet with Congressman Lewis and glorified his achievements even more. One of Lewis’ biggest roles in the Civil Rights Movement was serving as chairman for the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC). The SNCC was responsible for organizing nonviolent student protests. This was interesting to me because when I attend college, I would want to be a part of a group that would help organize student protests. During the meeting, we discussed more than just the Civil Rights movement, as we also touched upon political issues such as gun rights. One thing that I found interesting was his reason for withdrawing his endorsement for Hillary Clinton to endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential primaries. Congressman Lewis told the group that it was “one of the hardest he ever made in office.” Furthermore, the Deputy Whip told us he thought for a long time over this decision and even cried a bit. Ultimately, the congressman told us it was him wanting “to be on the right side of history” that made him endorse Obama instead of Clinton. Another thing to mention about John Lewis is that he stands up for what he believes is morally right. For this reason, I respect John Lewis for not only his past but his future, as he tried to pass the gridlock in Congress today.
After our meeting, we boarded the bus and went to Chinatown for lunch. Here we ate, yes, you guessed it, Chinese food.
Next on the list on this busy day was a meeting with Greenpeace. Bill Richardson gave us a presentation of Greenpeace’s mission. Their mission is to protect ancient forests, protect the world’s oceans, and to stop global warming. I have a love-hate relationship with Greenpeace because I love their three goals, but I hate how they go after achieving them. For example, Greenpeace would like to get rid of coal completely. However, this would take away 108,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, 54 percent of the state’s electricity generation, and a good portion of its economy. Now, I am in favor of using renewable energy, but currently, there is no way that renewable energy can create 108,000 jobs, replace the role of coal in the Pennsylvanian economy, or create the same amount of energy. My opinion is that we need to continue to put more research money into renewable energy and as we create cheaper, more efficient ways to gain such energy, then we can begin to fade out the coal industry.
Next, we traveled to the newest memorial in D.C., the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. There were differing opinions amongst Etgarians about the site. Sally Parker felt the memorial was “tacky.” Jordan Strudler said it was a “nice” tribute. To me, the memorial was a disappointment, as the colors of the stones (black and white) were separated from each other. As we have learned throughout our summer journey, Martin Luther King Jr. worked for desegregation of races. The opposite was portrayed in this memorial.
Following our visit to the memorial, we went to J-Street. J-Street is a “pro-Israel, pro-peace organization.” They believe in a two-state solution to solve the problems currently facing Israel and Palestine. This meeting was very emotional for many Etgarians due to the current tensions in the region today. In addition, most of us have strong opinions about Israel. I, like many others in the group, agreed with the organization theoretically, particularly the part in which peace must come politically and not by force. I agree with the fact that you can be pro-Israel and not agree with everything the Israeli government does. That being said, we were disappointed that they do not go and actually help Palestinians realize that peace is possible. In addition, we were disappointed with the fact that there is no timetable for peace in the area.
After our meeting with J-Street, we went to Georgetown, where we had two hours of free time for dinner. After dinner, we had what Georgetown is famous for: cupcakes. I can attest that the cupcakes are famous for good reason, as they were delicious.
To close out our very busy day, we visited the memorials on the National Mall. There, we saw the Lincoln, World War II, World War I, Korean War, and the Vietnam War Memorials.
After we boarded the bus and made our way back to the hotel, we went straight to bed. It was truly an exhausting day.