This reflection is written by Tyler Safran ‘15, one of 24 University of San Diego political science students who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend The Washington Center seminar program and the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
During the remaining two weeks of winter intersession, I embarked on a journey unlike any other. Instead of sleeping in and enjoying the well-deserved time off after a brutally long semester, I chose to join 26 other USD students and staff and travel to our nation’s capital to experience history in the making.
I arrived at The Washington Center (TWC), eager to learn the ins and outs of American politics. I left with an expanded knowledge of our governmental system. With topics ranging from poverty and social justice to gun control and congressional bipartisanship, being at the heart of America has sufficiently developed my knowledge of the pressing issues facing our Congress.
During the 10-day Presidential Inauguration Academic Seminar series, The Washington Center (TWC) provided students with transformational experiences that fostered academic and professional achievement, leadership, and civic engagement. With speakers like Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, to Dr. Cornell West, a philosopher and activist for social justice, the 400-plus students that came to Washington were adequately informed about various topics on the political spectrum.
When we weren’t in morning sessions or small group discussions, we were out exploring all that the city had to offer. Fellow USD students Christine Hackett and Brian Fernandez were able to experience first-hand the efforts of lobbying as they went to several congressional members in seek of inaugural tickets. With their efforts on the Hill — thanks largely to San Diego-area Congressman Juan Vargas, a 1983 USD alumnus, and Congressman Duncan D. Hunter — every Torero got a ticket to the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
With the various site visits and time spent outside the classroom, we were able to develop relationships amongst each other and with each of the professors. Having been veterans in Washington, USD professors Dr. Mike Williams, Dr. Del Dickson, and Dr. Noelle Norton all had insightful observations and stories that positively contributed to our overall educational experiences. With so many places to see, there was hardly a dull moment.
For Mahad Ghani, being in Washington was more than, “seeing politicians running the gambit of politics and the monuments that commemorated our nation’s history, it was about being able to see how America functions.” This, for all of us, was an invaluable experience.
In regards to the inauguration itself, I can say that this was one of the greatest experiences in my entire life. My day began like every other day at TWC where I was awoken at an unreasonably early hour. My fellow Toreros and I were out the door by 3:15 a.m. and were among the first to arrive at security. By 4 a.m. the waiting officially began and we all sat around conversing with each other while trying to keep warm in the below freezing air. For seven and a half hours, we waited for the ceremony to commence at the cold and windy Capitol. But to my pleasant surprise, the waiting went by exceptionally fast. By 11:30 a.m., the 57th Presidential Inauguration was officially under way.
Shortly after, we were in the presence of congressional representatives, Supreme Court justices, and the president himself — the very people we spend our educational careers reading about but never really dream of seeing. Watching the president take his oath into office was a surreal experience. Listening to the president’s speech was unbelievably inspiring. And hearing the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Beyoncé radiate around the Capitol reinvigorated my sense of patriotism. It was at this moment, as history unfolded before my very eyes, I was truly able to appreciate this unique opportunity I had been given. And, it was this moment, I became hopeful for the future of America.
— Tyler Safran ‘15