Mar 02 2011

Ben Bernanke at the National Press Club on February 3, 2011

by at 12:41 pm

After enjoying a luncheon with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on January 14 at the National Press Club, February 3, 2011 brought students in the Semester in Washington Program back to one of the world’s leading conference and event centers to hear remarks by the current Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke.

Ben Bernanke | National Press Club | February 3, 2011

I cannot claim to be an expert regarding monetary policy and Bernanke opened his talk by recognizing that that the majority of the public consists of nonexperts and, “…must therefore rely on the diligent reporting, clear thinking, and lucid writing of reporters determined to go beyond dueling bumper stickers and sound bites to help people understand what they need to make good decisions, both in their personal finances and at the polls.” The chairman went on to discuss the current economic tone of the country, citing minimal increases in economic prosperity throughout 2009, but encouraging the public that 2011 “seems likely to lead to a more rapid pace of economic recovery.” However, he then claimed that beyond production and spending, it is essential for job growth to be re-established and stabilized before any real recovery can occur.

Bernanke continued his talk by discussing monetary policies and addressing the asset purchase program, citing its benefits, but assuring the public that the Federal Reserve will review the program and exit from it “at the appropriate time.” Fiscal Policy was the last topic Bernanke’s talk commented on, bringing up the issue of Social Security as the baby boom generation begins to reach retirement age. The chairman urged Congress and the Administration to look at spending and taxes and to focus on reducing the deficit. He also called for more investment into programs promoting skill building, research and development, and providing public infrastructure. Bernanke ended by pushing the argument for a better economy beyond simply growth, “Our nation cannot reasonably expect to grow its way out of our fiscal imbalances, but a more productive economy will ease the trade-offs that we face.”

Bernanke then addressed a few questions from the audience. He commented briefly on his personal struggle being the face of the Federal Reserve at such a turbulent time in the US and the importance of having a competent staff. He also discussed some of the issues that come with a poor job market citing that the majority of those currently unemployed in the US have been so for 6 months or more, meaning that they are rapidly losing their skill sets, contacts, and overall knowledge of the field, posing yet another hurdle on the road to job growth and recovery. His final comments were regarding the separation of the Fed from short-term politics. He warned against the use of the Fed as an arm of Congress, leading to bank decisions that could potentially be dictated by short term government decisions that could lead to a negative outcome for the country’s overall economic stability.

This experience, even for those of us with no economic background, was a chance to get acquainted with the man charged with the job of leading our country through this economic crisis. We were able to get a sense of the direction, the needs, the flaws, and the complexity of this economic situation- all from the man who is in the middle of it all. Overall, an incredible afternoon and exceptional learning experience.

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Jul 18 2010

Venus Williams at the National Press Club on July 7, 2010

by at 2:39 pm

On July 7, 2010 Ms. Williams held her book talk at the National Press Club to a crowd of over 200 people. The event was sold out. The atmosphere, food, vibe and, most of all, speaker was astounding. We Semester in Washington students did not know what to expect from professional tennis player Ms. Williams, but it’s safe to say that she’s not only an amazing tennis player, but a motivational speaker as well.

For an athlete, as important as it is to win, loosing is just as crucial. She explained how sports have a way of teaching an individual how to cope with rough times and can potentially help them acquire skills that can come into play in everyday situations. She believes that engaging in sports should be something everyone should do. With great wins and devastating losses, sports is much more than a physical activity, it’s a way of life.

Ms. Williams also briefly talked about her fight for equal prize money from Wimbledon and the French Open and how in 2007 her dreams finally came true. Having been supported by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British members of Parliament who publicly endorsed her arguments, her goal of women receiving the same amount of price money from those tournaments was an unimaginable realization.

When she’s not practicing on the court, playing tournaments or in a gym, Ms. Williams spends her time in the fashion world. She confessed to the fact that she’s a workaholic and perfectionist, so a hectic, busy lifestyle is the type she’s always known and loved. As a Miami girl myself, I can understand why she’s so proud of where she’s from and why fashion became a field of interest to her.

The very accomplished young professional left the room in awe with all she’s achieved and the way in which she expressed herself. Very confident and happy to be there, she ended the book talk with a question from a listener of whether Martina Hingis should be scared of that night’s match at the Washington Kastles. Well, aside from the fact she’s “not a trash talker”, she said “I expect her to be prepared” and left it at that. The title of her book “Come to Win” perfectly describes the type of person she is and how she’s lived her life from the beginning.

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Jul 13 2010

National Press Conference: Brent Scowcroft

by at 10:07 pm

The Luncheon hosted by the National Press Club will be one of my most memorable experiences throughout the entire Semester in Washington Program.

It was my first true experience of being a professional in Washington D.C.-particularly because we were dressed professionally and because we were in the presence of some of the United States’ most prominent officials.

The presentation with Brent Scowcroft was truly incredible; Mr. Scowcroft played a huge role in the United States as he served as the National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. His expertise in both the public and private sectors was insightful for all of the students who attended the luncheon. He even managed to give us his views on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! Georgetown University truly does offer its students with unique opportunities-whether that be attending NPC events or having free tickets to different exhibits throughout Washington D.C.-and my decision to study at Georgetown for the summer was definitely life changing.

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Jul 12 2010

Freedom is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America’s Struggle over Black Family Life, from LBJ to Obama-Brookings Institute-June 10

by at 6:57 pm

          The Moynihan Report entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action Office of Policy Planning and Research United States Department of Labor” revealed one aspect of racial disparity in this country.  The rate of illegitimacy within the African-American community the mid-1960s was one of the benchmarks that indicated the plight of their community, yet Senator Moynihan’s report on this fragile subject turned heads and eventually ostracized him in many political circles.  In this event sponsored by the Brookings Institute, intellectuals, professors, and journalists debated the societal context, impact, and lasting legacy of the Moynihan Report.  They lauded it for being ahead of its time as illegitimacy rates in today’s African American society triple that of the 1960s.  They also were chagrin at the reaction the document received during its time.  Unfortunately, the report was leaked and with the racially charged atmosphere of the time, Moynihan’s arbitrary look at the African-American community labeled him as a racist, which is not only false but took away from the terrible social problem he was trying to raise awareness on. 

            The debate not only focused on the history of the Moynihan Report but soon turned into a debate about the sanctity of marriage and the contemporary status of African-American society in the time of Obama and an apparent post-racial attitude.  The myth about the lack of marriageable young African-American men was confronted by members of the audience and the matriarchal nature of many fractured African-American households was analyzed and presented as one reason African-Americans feel a sense of “otherness” or disconnection from mainstream society.  We live in a patriarchal society, dominated by male-centric ideology, and with women leading most African-American households, we find an inherent gap in the upbringing of many young children.  While this situation is obviously not desirable in current society, many lingering effects of racism and segregation that have contributed to oppression of African-Americans in even our so-called equal society were touched upon by the incredibly intelligent panel.  These include the disproportionate incarceration rates of African-Americans and economic segregation resulting from suburbanization. References to the Cosby Show and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” were part of the optimism towards race relations that the panel eventually espoused. 

          Despite race relations improving in their minds, the idea of marriage seemed less protected.   The high rate of divorce, the lack of spirituality, and wedlock birth rates were all areas of concern expressed by the panel.  However, the idea of marriage itself (a heteronormative partnership between a man and a woman) was not promulgated.  The panel likened a Scandinavian model as a good goal for American society.  Even though their idea of marriage isn’t as traditional, non-traditional families, including long-term heterosexual and homosexual couples, are very common in the Scandinavian countries and provide a safety network for their younger generations.  This safety net is what’s lacking in many communities in America, especially minority communities.  The Scandinavian model was brought up a lot in the discussion and even though it may not be practical for America, its successes have not gone unnoticed by the Brookings Institute.

          The Moynihan Report was considered a “moment lost in history” by the panel.  It was a report that could’ve shed light on serious social problems of the time.  Unfortunately, due to the heightened racial tensions during the Civil Rights Movement, the document was taken out of context and it would be another generation before a white man would take up the issues plaguing the African-American society.  There is a crisis of the family resulting from the entanglement of race relations, which is the same problem that was occurring 40 years ago, and the Brookings Institute’s discussion sheds light on the darkened past of this piece of history.  Hopefully, the members of this panel will help improve our contemporary society and truly make our society one that embodies Obama’s ideological post-racial America.

No responses yet | Categories: SWP American Politics,SWP Summer 2010

Jul 12 2010

National Gallery of Art – Washington DC – June 8, 2010

by at 10:53 am

​I am by no means an art major or have any authority in discussing art, but it does not take an expert to notice and appreciate the extraordinary collection of gems at The National Gallery of Art. Overall, the collection of exhibits in this museum offers such diverse pieces as to offer the public a well-rounded experience of the arts. Names such as Davis, Demuth, Dove, Monet, and Picasso adorn the labels of the paintings throughout the building. It is with the echoing success of these names that the world of the arts is able to exist. It is with programs like the Georgetown University Semester in Washington Program that we students get to experience these fantastic places.
​One of my favorite exhibits of this museum was the “German Master Drawings from the Wolfgang Ratjen Collection, 1580-1900.” It is amazing what the human hand can do with some chalk, a pair of eyes, and a great mind. The exhibit featured works by Adam Elsheimer, Johann Rottenhammer, and Hans von Aachen among others. Additionally, the collection, which was put together by Wolfgang Ratjen, focused on the portrayal of the human figure. The level of detail put into these works is absolutely astonishing, even in small canvases where one could consider that level of intricacy impossible. Moreover, the depiction of pastoral scenes was also a common appearance. These examples illustrated panoramic views of lush countryside and forests. Aside from those fabulous works, this experience broadened my perspective in regards to the world in general. It was a great opportunity to learn about something outside the context of scholastic work.
​Ultimately, the purpose to come to Washington DC is to expand one’s points of view and to learn new things. Opportunities like these help students get out of the stressful environment that comes with schoolwork. Thus, the primary thing that one can obtain from going to The National Gallery of Art is not the further memorizing of facts, but to just escape into a new environment where one can be free from pressure and judgment. Like I said, without programs like these, this would not be possible.

No responses yet | Categories: SWP,SWP Summer 2010

Jul 11 2010

Semester in Washington Students Visit the National Press Club: A Luncheon Ashley Judd Style

by at 11:52 pm

Recently a group of students and I had the amazing opportunity of visiting the National Press Club for a luncheon with renowned actress and spokesperson Ashley Judd. I am so thankful for the opportunity to travel to DC, study here at Georgetown and take advantage of such awesome opportunities, like Press Club luncheons. From Judd and other events I have learned a lot about myself, the systems at work in our society and my individual role within a broader worldly context.

I am unabashedly Southern. I hold doors, love pastel colors to an excessive degree, grew up on biscuits with grits and have been known to say “hello” or “hey y’all” to the average passersby. But, regardless of what elements of the southern United States’ stereotype I choose to personally identify with, I am most importantly rooted in a sense of place: the south, my home. Ashley Judd and I have this in common.

Experiencing Ashley Judd speak about her Kentucky roots borders on the edge of the intersection between a scene from Steel Magnolias and a summertime front-porch bluegrass concert. The cadence of her speech is eerily reminiscent to the steady plucking of a Kentucky banjo; full of colorful inflection, rhythm, ease and bends. As charming as Judd’s dialect and humorous asides about distilleries and moonshine are, what is most striking about her is both her love of Appalachia and her relentless passionate defense of her homeland from what she says is quickly destroying all she came to love as a child: coal mine mountaintop removal.

According to Judd, this evil is tearing apart Appalachia and leaving natural and human habitats contaminated, deserted and irreversibly tarnished. Every body of water in Kentucky is under the threat of contamination because of the human search and quest for coal, she says. Not only is the dynamiting away of some of the oldest mountains in the world horrific in and of itself, the results are irreversible and are threatening a way of life in a part of the country that, according to Judd, depends on the destruction of their natural world for income.

In many parts of Appalachia, coal mining once existed as an insular industry that kept afloat hundreds of families during the first half of the twentieth century and resulted in relatively thriving mountain communities. All of this changed as our national consumption of coal decreased in return for more readily accessible and or environmentally conscious alternatives.

“The coal mining industry will never be able to sustain the entire region as it once did,” Judd says.

The people of the mountains Judd loves so dearly are caught in an economic catch-22; they are forced to weigh their love for their natural worlds and their families at home who depend on coal mining jobs to bring home food to the table. And, as Judd will tell you, the good people of Appalachia have sided with their families for the last century. Because the coal few alternative industries exist in the regions in which MTR (Mountaintop Removal) is ravaging the natural splendor of the Earth, most livelihoods depend solely on low-paying and extremely dangerous employment with several conglomerate coal companies Judd describes and “ruthless.”

“To speak out against the mines is to be unpatriotic,” Judd says. Judd says that the people of Appalachia not only have little political clout, but also rarely speak out for fear of losing their jobs. This lack of representation and this cause is what Judd has forthrightly committed herself and her spotlight of attention to.

Judd says that she wants to use her fame and spotlight to spread awareness about what is going on in her homeland. She took up this cause recently while attending the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government where, she says, only one other peer there had ever heard of this travesty. She expressed her frustrations in trying to bring awareness to the topic while studying at Harvard and remarked that the corporate leaders of the numerous coal companies that dot the region refused to accept countless invitations to speak at the school and elsewhere.

Judd’s ultimate goal, besides increased dialogue and press attention, is concrete governmental action and investment in new industry throughout the region to provide the nail in the coffin for coal companies: employees with valid options of work elsewhere.

As an aspiring journalist and politician, Judd’s work and words of hope for her home are deeply moving. She is doing what I hope to do in a career in either journalism or political service: give a coherent voice to a people and a story that have no way of spreading their perspective with the world.

27 responses so far | Categories: SWP,SWP Summer 2010,Uncategorized

Jul 11 2010

Semester in Washington Students Meet Civil Rights Leader Andrew Young and His Godson Kabir Sehgal at National Press Club

by at 10:39 pm

On Wednesday evening, June 16, 2010, a group of us from Georgetown’s Summer in Washington Program were able to attend an enthralling National Press Club event featuring Civil rights leader Andrew Young and his godson Kabir Sehgal.  After spending the evening discussing their memoir “Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead,” both Young and Sehgal stayed after for book signings and personal discussions with several different students.

Ambassador Young (left) signs book for Semester in Washington student Burton Peebles (UNC Chapel Hill)

Ambassador Young (left) signs book for Semester in Washington student Burton Peebles (UNC Chapel Hill)

Andrew Young is a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and mayor of Atlanta. He also served as the President of the National Council of Churches USA, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1960’s, and was a supporter and friend of Dr. Luther King Jr.  Kabir Sehgal, recently graduated from Dartmouth, is currently working for J.P. Morgan in New York.  In Sehgal’s years growing up, Young served as his Godfather, mentor, and dear friend.  Young spoke of their relationship as a two-way learning experience that could never occur between parent and child. Both Young and Sehgal stressed the importance of children having mentors outside of their families.  Their reasoning for this was so that the relationship could be one that wasn’t as overly-protective in nature and could withstand recurrent, dynamic, yet teaching, disagreements.  Though the two often differ in opinion, Young stated that, “mutual frustration led us to this book.” The book is written in Sehgal’s voice as the stories told and taught to him by Young.

An example of a topic they spoke upon in disagreement was their difference of views on rap music. This topic in particular struck a chord with our generation. Mr. Young said that he could relate to the rappers’ plight and saw their taking out anger in song lyrics as a positive thing.  He said that he would rather hear the anger in their lyrics and music than see them actually acting violently upon that anger.  Sehgal, on the other hand, as a music major and accomplished bassist, couldn’t see what good could possibly come out of music with such “brutal lyrics.”

Though there are many topics the two disagree on, there are also many issues that the two are in complete agreement over.  A main point made by both speakers throughout the evening was on the importance of economics.  They both spoke to the effect of economics trumping politics, not matter what the issue.  Young spoke to several of us afterwards about dropping our aspirations to attend law school, but rather, to look into studying economics instead.  When I personally had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Young while getting my own copy of their book signed, he put my years studying political science into a new perspective.  He told me that: (1) studying politics is useless, it is studying the way people work to get what they want or get re-elected.

From left to right: Caleb Beck (Landmark College), Britney Smith (University of Virginia), Monica Ruiz (Florida International University), Mario Palencia-Sanchez (CSU San Bernardino), Ambassador Andrew Young, Marlene Poetsch (University of Bayreuth, Germany), Kabir Sehgal, Jonathan Wood (Vassar College), Burton Peebles (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Julie Frost (University of Central Florida)

From left to right: Caleb Beck (Landmark College), Britney Smith (University of Virginia), Monica Ruiz (Florida International University), Mario Palencia-Sanchez (CSU San Bernardino), Ambassador Andrew Young, Marlene Poetsch (University of Bayreuth, Germany), Kabir Sehgal, Jonathan Wood (Vassar College), Burton Peebles (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Julie Frost (University of Central Florida)

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Jul 06 2010

Ken Mehlman, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Speaks to Semester in Washington Program Students

by at 5:29 pm

Ken Mehlman visited with Semester in Washington Program students in Professor Sam Potolicchio’s academic seminar class on American Politics on February 19, 2010.
Semester in Washington Program students engage in political discussion with Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee chairman, in Healy Hall.

Semester in Washington Program students engage in political discussion with Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee chairman, in Healy Hall.

“Ken Mehlman is someone who epitomizes what we try to do with this program,” said Potolicchio. “He reached the pinnacle of politics and he practiced his craft with substance and intellectual heft.”
Mehlman lectured on the evolution of the party system and party politics since World War II. He engaged the students in a wide-ranging discussion, touching on an array of issues from the personal to the political.

“Ken Mehlman’s intimate conversation with the eight of us was nothing short of extraordinary,” said Semester in Washington student Jason Cain. “The amount of political insight that we received in this class was equal to what most students get during their entire undergraduate education.”

Mehlman also advised the students to carve out careers that are enjoyable even on the weekends, because happiness makes success.

“I am amazed by how much information I received from one extraordinary individual, who has a passion for education, progress, and personal growth,” said student Sharon Mona. “Mehlman’s visit is my most memorable event here in my experience in Washington.”

Among his many jobs in a storied career of public service, Mehlman served as the White House Political Director, campaign manager for President Bush’s re-election, and chairman of the Republican National Committee.

 Following the discussion, the group gathered in front of the John Carroll statue (from left to right) - Marco Saavedra (Kenyon College), Sharon Mona (Point Loma Nazarene University), Nick Sprague (Kenyon College), Hannah Griffin (Illinois Wesleyan University), Jason Cain (Yellow Ribbon Program), Soroush Damsaz (Point Loma Nazarene University), Ken Mehlman (guest speaker), Brittany Taylor (Point Loma Nazarene University), Sam Potolicchio (visiting assistant professor), and Mike Mancini (Illinois Wesleyan University).

Following the discussion, the group gathered in front of the John Carroll statue (from left to right) - Marco Saavedra (Kenyon College), Sharon Mona (Point Loma Nazarene University), Nick Sprague (Kenyon College), Hannah Griffin (Illinois Wesleyan University), Jason Cain (Yellow Ribbon Program), Soroush Damsaz (Point Loma Nazarene University), Ken Mehlman (guest speaker), Brittany Taylor (Point Loma Nazarene University), Sam Potolicchio (visiting assistant professor), and Mike Mancini (Illinois Wesleyan University).

For more information on the School of Continuing Studies Semester in Washington Program, visit washington.

No responses yet | Categories: SWP,SWP American Politics,SWP Spring 2010

Jul 06 2010

Students Connect with Former Secretary of Energy and Former US Senator of Michigan Spencer Abraham

by at 5:26 pm

The Semester in Washington, D.C. Program American Politics class had an intimate political discussion with former Secretary of Energy and former US senator of Michigan, Spencer Abraham. Abraham was a founder of The Federalist Society, the founder of the Harvard Law Review on Public Policy, and the former Chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan.

APPA Spencer Abraham

Abraham spoke to students about his early interest and involvement in politics at the state level, his service in public office in both the legislative and executive branches, and his transition back into private life where he is CEO of The Abraham Group, an international consulting firm. Abraham addressed the students’ questions on the contemporary political landscape including the upcoming midterm elections, immigration, the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and pending legislative items. Ultimately, Abraham encouraged the students to pursue their passions and counseled them that when the time came to move on, to move on without regrets.

Visiting Assistant Professor Sam Potolicchio noted that Abraham’s expertise perfectly supplemented the week’s theoretical readings. “In our studies this week, we have looked at the branches as part of a separated system,” said Potolicchio. “The conversation really tied together our week’s lesson with an unparalleled insider’s account of our government.”

Student Nick Sprague noted, “Spencer Abraham’s perspective having been a party chairman, a Senator, and the Secretary of the Energy, provided for enlightening observations about the differing mindsets of the people who work in these distinct positions.

No responses yet | Categories: SWP,SWP American Politics,SWP Spring 2010

Jul 06 2010

An Intimate Discussion with Former Congressman Lee Hamilton

by at 5:22 pm

Pictured left to right: Nick Sprague (Kenyon College), Sam Potolicchio (Prof), Marco Saavedra (Kenyon College), Soroush Damsaz (Point Loma Nazarene University), Hannah Griffin (Illinois Wesleyan University), Sharon Mona (Point Loma), Hamilton, Brittany Taylor (Point Loma), Jason Cain (Yellow Ribbon), and Mike Mancini (Illinois Wesleyan University).

Pictured left to right: Nick Sprague (Kenyon College), Sam Potolicchio (Prof), Marco Saavedra (Kenyon College), Soroush Damsaz (Point Loma Nazarene University), Hannah Griffin (Illinois Wesleyan University), Sharon Mona (Point Loma), Hamilton, Brittany Taylor (Point Loma), Jason Cain (Yellow Ribbon), and Mike Mancini (Illinois Wesleyan University).

The Semester in Washington, D.C. Program American Politics and Political Affairs class visited with former Congressman Lee Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, to talk about Congress, American foreign policy, elections, and presidential power. Hamilton served as a United States Congressman for 34 years, chaired the National Security Preparedness Group, vice-chaired the 9/11 Commission Report, and co-chaired the Iraq Study Group. He is also currently the Director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University.

“His insights into campaign finance, political parties, and consensus building are what aspiring young students of politics need to, yet rarely, hear about,” said student Jason Cain. “Our class had the privilege of participating in an intimate conversation with an insightful political leader.”

No responses yet | Categories: SWP,SWP American Politics,SWP Spring 2010

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