NESA Seminar: Round 2!
So after more than a month of back-to-back seminars at the NESA Center, my fellow interns and I finally have a nice break off. It seems to me that a lot of interns here at the Washington Center have an internship that requires a moderate amount of work on a daily basis but, for those future TWC kids out there reading this, this is not the case at the NESA Center. What's really unique about working at NESA is that when seminar is in session you will be working a minimum of 11-hour days for two weeks straight (unlike, say, my roommates who work 40-hour weeks and no weekends), but the experience is absolutely invaluable if you take advantage of it. When there is no seminar in session however, there isn't a whole lot for us to do except to catch up on the ludicrous amount of TWC work that has amassed over the past couple of weeks that I have been occupied with NESA work. On the plus side though, the other interns and I do get a lot of time to go to think tank events, which can be really interesting (and usually have a free lunch!), but that's a blog for another time. If anyone is interested in international relations and has any questions about the NESA Center or about possibly interning there, feel free to shoot me a message and we can talk about whether you think it would be a good fit or not.
The seminar we just completed was the Senior Executive Seminar (SES) and it is one of the NESA Center's most high ranking seminar groups, but, while the participants were obviously higher ranking than our previous seminar, the content of the course was very similar to our first one. The course director changes every seminar however, and this time the honor went to Dr. Michael Yaffe who, as an avid historian and former academic dean of the NESA Center, really made the experience enjoyable for both the interns and the participants. One thing that was noticeably different in this seminar however, was how the tour of Washington, D.C. progressed, as this time we were able to visit the Jefferson Memorial, which I had not previously had the chance to do. While the Washington monument and Lincoln memorial are both fantastic sites (albeit much nicer when the reflecting pool isn't under construction..), the Jefferson Memorial is definitely my favorite memorial in DC. The memorial sits on the south edge of the tidal basin so it has a really nice view of the waterfront and the word on the street is that it's the most beautiful part of D.C. come spring time when the cherry trees around the basin begin to bloom. I guess I'll just have to wait a couple months to post pictures of that though! For now however, Clint was kind enough to let me use a couple of pictures he took while we were visiting the memorial (his camera is way nicer than mine), so kudos to him for many of these photos!
Each side of the Jefferson Memorial wall has a famous quote attributed to Jefferson; the first quote is obviously from the Declaration of Independence, of which we was the principal author. Interestingly enough, Jefferson saw his authorship of the Declaration to be more important than his term as a the third president, and even went as far as including his authorship on his epitaph, while omitting from his list of accomplishments his tenure as president. This last quote from Jefferson however, is my favorite, as I think it has relevance especially in light of the coming elections. I find it odd that many of the Republican presidential candidates desire a reversion back to the days of a classical, conservative America that embodies the principles and ideals that we were ostensibly founded on, while Jefferson clearly thought that the Constitution should be considered a living document that mirrored the progress of humanity, not the ethical standards of the time it was written in. As he so eloquently put it, "We might as well require a man to still wear the coat which fitted him as a boy as civilized society to remain even under the regime of their barbarous ancestors". In this famous quote, he even called into question certain institutions that could be considered inhumane or uncivilized, which society may deem necessary to abolish at some point. Considering his (secret) convictions towards slavery, I can only assume he was referring to that horrendous practice (which just so happens to be another institution the US was founded on), but the point is that Jefferson and many of the other founding fathers clearly expounded an idea of progress and rationality, which is inherently contradictory to classical conservative principles. It's important to note that views of the Founding Fathers were seen as radical by both their British brethren and their Loyalist counterparts in Colonial America, as the move for independence and the eventual establishment of a government based on the voice of the people was an extremely progressive idea for the time. What's important to take away from the actions of the Founding Fathers is not necessarily the ethical standards of the day or even the laws they established, but the actions with regard to the context of the time period... On that note however, I digress.
One more thing that was different about this seminar was that the NESA Center took all the participants on a tour and dinner at George Washington's Mount Vernon. Dr. Michael Yaffe is a George Washington expert and thus was able to give us a fantastic fact-filled and awe inspiring speech about our first President in the dining room where Washington himself often entertained his guests. I have to admit though; I was not a fan of the menu that night. Apparently a chicken stuffed with plums and oats was George Washington's idea of a good meal, but while I revere the man, I cannot say the same about his dietary options. Unfortunately it was kind of a crappy rainy day when we visited, so Clint and I decided to spend most of our time in the museum. If you get a chance to take the tour though, you should definitely go for it; I only heard good things from all the participants.
Washington's pistol and pirate thingy
A flattering depiction of our first President on horseback
Well, that's pretty much it for the SES seminar. Now maybe I'll have time to do some more adventurous stuff and post more about the city, night life, etc. so stay tuned for a little shift in gears. Until next time folks!