My Introduction to American Law class took a college field trip to Washington, D.C., for about a week to observe the workings of our government and to meet successful people in fields some of my classmates may have been interested in. We met the senators of our home state (Tennessee), Georgia Rep. John Lewis, multiple attorneys, as well as many others who lived and worked in the United States Capitol. From my experiences meeting these high-profile people and interacting with others on the Metro and in the streets, I learned five important lessons.
1. People can be kind.
Throughout my week-long adventure in Washington I met and talked to so, so many incredibly kind individuals who want nothing but the best for all of the students they met. Although all these people are busier than one can even imagine, they took time out of their schedules to meet with college students looking for inspiration and guidance. Many even gave us their personal email addresses and urged us to contact them if we needed an internship or help with anything.
2. People can be cut-throat.
Washington, D.C., is a city of ambition, and with that comes immensely competitive people. While I didn’t experience this personally, many of the speakers told us how difficult it is to worm into the inner-circles of power and influence. It goes without saying that politics comes with plenty of wheelings and dealings, just watch Scandal. But on a real note, Jim Cooper, Rep. for the great state of Tennessee, told us deals have to be made to pass legislation because of how polarized our politics have become.
3. Youth doesn’t matter.
The press secretary for Tennessee Sen. Alexander Lamar told me, “If other countries knew America was being run by a bunch of twenty-somethings, they’d be impressed.” On Monday, after a weekend of sightseeing and getting to know the city, we “went to work” as my professor put it. All of the students dressed up in business professional and went into the heart of the city to learn about our government. What I found, when I walked down into the Metro, were literally streams of young people. So many interns and college students gushed out of the tunnels and into the bright light of promise and ambition. Washington, D.C., is not a city of old men making decisions for us commoners, but a city of young people working hard to make real change happen.
4. Be nice.
People notice when you’re rude or nasty to others. I was on the Metro waiting to get off and when the train stopped, a large teenage boy put his hand in front of my face when I moved to depart and said, “Cupcake, don’t even think about it.” He then proceeded to step in front of me and off the railcar. I noticed some older men around me shaking their heads at the boy. People pay attention. Be nice to the old lady on the bus. Be nice to the waiter who messed up your order. Be nice to the secretary. It not only reflects well on you, but it makes them feel better.
5. It’s possible to be a Christian and successful.
One thing I thought was incredible was how many of the successful people we met were Christians. One man in particular, attorney Jack White, was so moving when he spoke about his law firm, but not because he defended the woman from her abusive husband or the man framed for fraud, but because of his approach to each case. Every time someone comes to him with a problem, he confidently tells them that it will be solved. He told us, “I may not know the solution, but God certainly does.”
Overall, Washington, D.C., taught me about people, taught me about myself and taught me about faith. Don’t let ambition cloud your judgment to where you become cruel and hard-hearted. Always remember to put others before yourself and treat them how you would want to be treated.