Ah, yes. In classic yearbook fashion, this is just a glance at just a mere few of the trip’s highlights:
Best memory of the trip: Experiencing a presidential inauguration—from the sirens on the streets at midnight the night before to horns blaring Hail to the Chief—was an unforgettable and completely indescribable experience. To think that someday I will be able to tell my kids or grandkids that I was on the National Mall in Washington to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, and the second inauguration of the country’s first black president is thrilling.
Most inspirational person we met: Whether I know it or not yet, I’m fairly confident that meeting with Paula Kerger—president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service—changed my life. I was excited to meet with her for the simple reason that she is a pronounced and influential woman in media and I am particularly enthusiastic about women in media. Accomplished and sophisticated, yet encouraging and personable, Ms. Kerger was an inspiration for a young female like myself, as one who is striving to fight the battle for a new generation of gender equality. It’s not about defeating odds. It’s about completely changing paradigms and I think Ms. Kerger’s work at PBS is an astonishing example of that.
Most impressive company: In the scope of all of the places we visited, Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) is one of the more notable to the common public. One would think that would give it every right to be, say, impersonal or terse perhaps. From the second we walked in the doors at C-SPAN, we were greeted with warmth, welcome, and people around every corner (literally) excited to answer all questions. Unlike other organizations, C-SPAN gave us a tour of their television and radio studios, control rooms, and general office space, inviting us to pose for as many photos we’d like and essentially get in the way as much as possible. I don’t think I glanced at a C-SPAN employee who didn’t send a subliminal message of welcome and pride in their job. Founder, chairman, and CEO Brian Lamb was the only person we met with who went around the room and personally shook every student’s hand, wanting to know who we were and where we were from. Mr. Lamb was also asked the least amount of questions from our group given his overwhelming fervor to talk to us, to ask us questions, and above all, to encourage us.
Best piece of advice: Find your passion. Be passionate. Do what you love. Love what you do. It echoed in the vast majority of conference rooms in which we sat. It ranked above “perfect your resume,” above “get good grades,” above “listen to your parents.” In an age where college kids can be spread thin to take a full course load, be leaders, be involved in extracurricular activities, have a social life, do well in school, apply for the next thing, make the next decision, and so on, what these (top-notch, fairly competitive) agencies were saying was what it comes down to is they don’t care. They want to see excellence, not because you pulled an all-nighter to ensure an A in that one class, but because you are dripping with passion for what you do.
Best national icon visited: Perhaps it was because I had seen the Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and Vietnam, among other monuments and memorials before, but there was something particularly special about the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. This morning (Sunday—our final day in D.C.), I got up early and walked down for one last go around at the National Mall. The MLK memorial is located right on the water across from the Jefferson. There stands a massive stone cutout of Dr. King, and a courtyard lined with engraved quotes of this great man. Naturally, being a weekend morning, it was quiet, and for a brief while, I stood alone with Dr. King. The air was brisk, but the sun was shining. It was beautiful. I got chills as I looked up at the phenomenally carved silhouette of a man whom I have admired for as far back as my memory will go. I thanked God for Dr. King’s work in our country and asked that He would empower me to do the same. Shortly after, several people strolled through the memorial area. I noticed a well-dressed, middle-aged African American woman walking through, wiping tears from her eyes as she read the words of Dr. King. Shivers went down my spine again. The MLK memorial tells a heart wrenching and beautiful story of what it truly means to serve God and love people.
Most important thing I learned about the impact of media: Yes, this is my attempt to be a suck-up and tie it back to the class title. But in all honesty, I have seen on this trip that media is influential and it is everywhere. As of today, I would not be surprised if I ended up in a media-related field for the rest of my life, but being the good double-major at a liberal arts school that I am, I also have no idea where I will end up. I don’t know exactly what I want. I have dreams—some exceptionally lofty. I am confused. I’m dying to get out in the real world, and yet I want to be in college forever. I may end up in anything but a media-related field, but I can honestly say this trip was not in vain. Regardless of wherever I end up and whatever I may be doing, media particularly is so prominent and only becoming more so, learning about it is only beneficial. In reality I think everyone should have an experience like this. To understand the “why” behind media organizations and their missions more than just what you see on an advertisement or in a headline, gives me an entirely new perspective of the incredibly unique phenomenon we call American media.