It’s officially spring but Washington has not yet received the memo because it snowed today. I’m hoping to experience some pretty weather before I leave so I can see the beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom!
I truly believe that feeling inspired is the best feeling out there. It keeps us working toward our dreams and maintaining faith in humanity.
During my time in Washington I have had the privilege of reporting on high profile events at some of the most historically significant landmarks in the U.S. With the two weeks I have remaining of my internship, I have been reflecting on the projects and stories I have worked on and how inspired I’ve become to always continue learning. I have finished every story feeling differently about an issue or more enlightened, there are a few that really standout. Here are a few of my favorite assignments and why:
~ Promise Zones. This was an awesome experience not only because it was my first trip to the White House, but also because I was in the first week of my internship and this was my first story assignment. It was as if the universe was telling me, “Welcome to Washington, yes, you’re really here.” President Barack Obama announced the creation of Promise Zones in five U.S. cities, one being San Antonio, which is where I attended high school. It was great to hear about changes happening in my city. “Promise Zones” is an initiative to improve living and economic conditions by partnering with communities and businesses. The five cities will receive federal money and tax credits and swift assistance with federal grant applications.
In the pressroom I met a group of the photographers and reporters. The first photographer I met is an alumnus from UT Austin! They all gave me similar advice: Don’t doubt yourself. They assured me that I was already on the path to becoming a successful journalist. Reporting in the East Room was a valuable learning experience as well – in fact I think it counted as my workout for the day. I was doing a great deal of squatting, standing on my tip-toes and lunging to get good photos and stay out of other photographers’ way. Despite the nerves I had going in, that day meant a lot to me and I definitely tried to take it all in.
~ The effects of solitary confinement. I’ve been to quite a few hearings since I’ve been in Washington and this one definitely stuck out as very impacting because it showed just how injustices can be looked over for decades. Testifying was Damon Thibodeaux, a man who was placed in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for 15 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He spoke on how dangerous it was that he never received any therapy before or after he was released back into the public. He said solitary confinement does not rehabilitate prisoners, but does the opposite. He saw men lose their minds from a lack of mental stimulation.
Another person who testified was Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black, which is a book and now Netflix show based on her experience in an all-women’s prison. She gave the women’s perspective of how prison guards abused their power over them. I had seen the first season Orange is the New Black before the hearing but I had no idea it was based on a true story. Ms. Kerman was a great speaker and is a wonderful example of a woman who is taking a stand to help others, despite a bad circumstance. If you haven’t seen the show already, get to it!
~ Snow competition in Dupont. This was my first light-hearted story of the semester and ya’ll, I cannot express to you how much I did not want to cover it. A snowstorm hit Washington the night before and while the rest of the city got the day off of work because of the 8.6 inches accumulated on the ground, I still had to report in. I’ll add that it was also raining and sleeting that day. “Lucky” me, I was assigned to cover the outdoor snow sculpture contest in the treacherous weather. So trekked out to Dupont Circle with my camera equipment, layers of clothing, hand warmers and rain gear into the deserted and snowy streets.
I expected to see a crowd of children at site but the real participants of the contest were adults. They were outside on their day off decorating snowmen in tutus, bikinis, fedoras, political signs and more. I found it difficult to keep up my humbug attitude with all of the light-hearted fun. Even though I was balancing keeping the camera equipment dry and trying to prevent my own body from freezing, the positive energy from the participants helped make a cold situation warmer. Reporting on this story taught me how important it is to smile and be a kid every once in a while and see the silver lining in a cold situation.
~ Target and Neiman Marcus data breach hearing. Over the years I’ve had a growing fascination in computer science as well as its effects and the future of technology. both Target and Neiman Marcus were attacked by a major data breach at the end of last year and in the beginning of this year. This hearing really showcased how ever-changing our world is and why there’s no long-term solution to prevent data breach —yet. The CEOs of Target and Neiman Marcus came to testify in support of an updated card payment system that would better protect customer information. Although the U.S. has outdated security systems in retail stores, once the systems are updated, it will be just a matter of time until cyber hackers figure out how to jump over those new barriers. It has happened and continues to happen. The issue of cyber security is a hot topic and there’s something about there being “no solution in sight” that makes it an appealing issue to me.
I feel very lucky for this opportunity to learn first-hand about real issues that impact this country. Looking forward to more inspirational lessons in the weeks to come!