A Day in DC

By: George Kunkel ’13

Recently the AP Government class at SCH went to Washington, D.C. for four days.
While there they met with the aides from multiple congressmen, visited different
sites on Capitol Hill, and experienced the feeling of our nation’s capital. The students
kept journal entries before, during, and after the trip in order to reflect on their
experiences. Here are a few of those entries:

Anticipation:
Ian Caplan- “It is the day of departure and I am very excited to be able to go
down to DC again. The trip freshman year was one of the best experiences I had in
high school and I have high hopes for this trip. With fewer people and a greater
knowledge of the politics and government in this country, I believe these next few
days could be even better than the week when we were freshmen.”
George Kunkel- “After going on the trip freshman year, I feel like I’m better
prepared for this type of trip and have a better understanding of not only the topics
that we are discussing but of just how great an opportunity this type of trip is for
anyone, let alone a high school student.”
Sanna Johnson- “I’m excited for the trip because Mr. Parker seems to know
everything about government so I’m sure he’ll make a great trip leader, and
probably an awesome tour guide of D.C. What I’m most excited about for the trip is
getting to meet people really in the fields we are discussing in class. AP Government
is one of the few classes where you can really go see what you are reading about in
action, so I expect it to be awesome.”

In D.C.:

Ian Caplan- “We are at the end of our first full day here in DC and so far it has
gone fairly well. Last night we went to the Kennedy Center and that was very fun.
This morning I went to Congresswoman Schwartz’s office and was able to speak
with some of her interns as well as legislative aides. We also had time with the aides
of both Senator Toomey and Senator Casey. We primarily discussed foreign policy in
Iran and domestic gun control issues. We also spoke about topics concerning the
fiscal cliff and general tax/budget controls. We then went and toured the National
Press Club with former President Gil Klein.”
Peter Vlahakis- “After the first day of the trip, I can personally confirm the
difference from the trip we took freshman year. The combination of the freedom to
explore Washington, D.C. and the responsibility that comes with knowing that you
must compose a position paper on the information you are able to gather from the
leading figures of our nation is a unique experience that I have not been exposed to
since. But as a senior in the AP Gov course, I am able to take advantage of these
opportunities to a much greater extent. Having knowledge of pressing current
issues that our government is facing and of how the government functions in
response to such issues has allowed me to gain so much more from the trip the
second time around.”

A Typical Day:

Mr. Parker- “Tuesday, day 2+ in our trip—three major stops. First at the
Middle East Institute to meet with Iranian Scholar Alex Vatanka. Great exchanges
and a massive amount of information shared. I once again was truly impressed by
the quality of questions and exchanges by our students. Then we are off to
Georgetown University. After lunch we shared nearly an hour and a half with a
professor of government. Speculation, Q & A projections and good thinking at a
number of levels. The class then spent the late afternoon at the Newseum. To a
person, they all felt that the day was outstanding. One member of our group stated
“the sessions today were just like being in a class, only different.” Today truly was a
great day as the class had a chance to engage and share with two very prominent
people in the DC world.”

Looking Back:
Olivia Corner- “Looking back at the trip, my favorite moments resulted from
intimate discussions with some very knowledgeable and interesting people. One of
the most influential discussions was with Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute
in D.C. Vatanka, an Iranian-born scholar and writer, was very knowledgeable about
the current situation in Iran as well as foreign relations between the country and the
United States. He spoke about things like the Iranian people being a major asset to
the United States, as the majority of Iranians do not support the current regime
(ayatollah), as well as the complex role sanctions play in Iran as the U.S. attempts to
cripple their economy in the hopes of reducing their nuclear program. This
information is very valuable in understanding the current political turmoil between
ourselves and Iran.

Jacky Willits- “Going to D.C. and seeing real-life applications of the aspects of
government discussed in our textbooks really brought the information to life.
Everything we had learned leading up to the trip really did play an important role in
the process of government. We spent a lot of time learning about news and media
while on the trip, which when looking at the itinerary beforehand seemed odd to
me, but we quickly saw how integral the media is in D.C. In retrospect I knew from
the textbook that the media dictated public opinion and was the mediator between
the people and the larger, faceless government. However, our visit to the Newseum
changed my whole perspective on the importance of journalism.”

In the end everyone saw this trip as a huge success across the board. The
opportunity to see exactly what we are learning about in action is not something
that many students can say they’ve experienced. This is a trip that will have lasting
impact not only for the rest of the year for this class, but for years to come, even
after high school.