Excitement and Lack Thereof in the Senate Chambers

by Zivah Solomon

 

The CPLA trip to Washington, D.C. in October was full of incredible meetings, discussions, selfies and oh so many Uber rides. But there was one moment that some (arguably, me) considered one of the most exciting moments of the entire trip.

Following the ten-hour overnight Amtrak ride from Boston to D.C., one of the excursions on the group’s first full day in the District was visiting both the House and Senate Galleries on Capitol Hill. After impromptu visits to obtain the gallery passes in the Longworth Building (where the most recent Benghazi hearing was taking place), we ventured into the rounds of security for the Senate Chambers. After becoming experts in efficiently passing through security clearance- I even considered requesting it as self directed academic minor- we made it to the doors of the Senate. Entering a Congressional Gallery as someone who is politically inclined is the equivalent of standing right in front of the Hollywood red carpet- expressly prohibited and without record (besides this article).

We sat ourselves quietly and proceeded to observe the less than a handful of senators chatting and sitting on the Senate floors. Some of us took out our helpful gallery maps and tried to see if any of our favorite senators were present while others sat quietly, whispering occasionally. There was discussion of how incredible it would be see senators from our respective home states, who we admired, and who we reviled.

One of the clerks was calling various names for a vote. Whenever she called a name we recognized our eyes would shoot toward the doors, but barely anyone walked in. C-SPAN and political publications do not lie about the emptiness of Congressional chambers on a daily basis. There were maybe twenty people in the Senate Chamber, including clerks and pages.

Suddenly, on the opposite side of the Chamber, two pages opened the doors and in walked Senator Bernie Sanders looking particularly rushed and harried. After about five minutes of quiet and patient observation, nearly everyone in the Senate Gallery was whispering excitedly. Not ten seconds following, in came Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential candidate and famous user of the word “maverick.” He proceeded to call out to Sanders, and then they fist bumped and hugged in the middle of the Senate Chamber. Is this what democracy looks like? I can only hope this what democracy looks like.

The Importance of Communication

by Nichelle Lyster

 

During the CPLA trip to Washington, D.C., we spent some time observing a bill debate concerning the streamlining of the U.S. mining permit system in the House of Representatives Chambers. Two representatives, one from Colorado and one from California, argued the bill. Both had strong arguments for why the bill should or should not pass, and watching the spectacle prompted for me yet another realization of the dire importance of effective communication. I tended to agree with the argument of the Californian representative, but he was unable to clearly or effectively describe his reasoning.

Why aren’t communication skills more highly valued in all professions?

Communication literacy in politics and campaign rhetoric need more attention. The people writing, reading, and debating bills and educating the public all have something to gain from taking the art of communication seriously. Often, after I am asked my major, I am met with another question: “What does that mean, to study Communication?” I usually answer that it depends entirely on the area you apply it to, but the common thread is that there is an entire aspect of human engagement that is highly underestimated and understudied.

Emerson’s involvement and dedication to bridging communication and politics is amazingly refreshing. Meeting with Emerson Alumni and the students enrolled in the program in D.C. inspired me to continue to my pursuit and advocacy for closer attention to communication. It was wonderful to get a closer look at the Congressional process and remember that those writing and voting on bills that directly effect our lives were once students as well. I hope that the students of Emerson and other colleges who inherit the positions of decision making will be more aware of the importance of the stories we tell and way in which we tell them.

Day 2 – The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

by Rahul Thayil

 

On the second day of our trip to Washington, the CPLA representatives and Bird Street students went to the Saudi Arabian Embassy, located on New Hampshire Avenue. We were greeted warmly and seated in a large conference room to watch an introductory video that discussed the pre-9/11 interactions between the USA and Saudi Arabia and the development and continued friendship between the two countries at present.

We also had the opportunity to speak to a key embassy official concerning the intercommunication and synergy between the two nations. He delved into culture, religion, and the interwoven pasts of these two countries. Later, five of us were dressed Saudi Arabian clothing, varying from traditional dress to modern garments, to further demonstrate the culture and sophistication of Saudi Arabian society.

Overall, we had a positive experience at the Saudi Arabian embassy with little hassle, and were given a unique view of Saudi Arabia from the perspective of its diplomatic representation.

Make Some Noise: The Civil Rights Exhibits at the Newseum

by Dylan Walton, CPLA Secretary

 

During our recent excursion to Washington, D.C., the Communications, Politics, and Law Association visited the highly revered Newseum Institute. There were many thought provoking and inspiring exhibits, and two in particular resonated with both the historian and the activist in me; The “1965: Civil Rights at 50” and the “Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement.” Both exhibits highlighted the historic significance of the challenges and successes of the late twentieth century Civil Rights Movement.

The “1965: Civil Rights at 50” exhibit featured a series of stories and displays centered on some of the most widely covered and influential moments at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in 1965. The exhibit spotlighted notable moments of photojournalism, displaying some of the iconic photos that captured the the entire nation’s attention. The Newseum covered it all, with views of the Million Man March and images of the traumatizing brutality endured by John Lewis and his comrades on “Bloody Sunday.”

Similarly notable was the exhibit on the involvement, influence, and impact of student protesters on the movement, especially in regards to the media coverage of it. Images of African-American and white students staging non-violent protests, and still being abused by authorities for non-compliance, were stamped on the public consciousness.

However, what I found most remarkable and moving about these displays was not just the brilliant showcasing of the efforts of civil rights leaders like Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin, but also the parallels seen between the activism of the past and the evolution of the Black Lives Matters movement. Showing the drive of young black Americans striving and fighting for their right to be treated as citizens struck a chord in me. The realization that the pleas of activists in the ’60s – their demands for fairer housing regulations, protection of voting rights, and an end to police brutality – were so eerily similar to the present cries of the struggling black community stung to my core.

As I turned to leave the displays that connected the historic path of our predecessors to the road advocates across the nation are paving for change, I saw an interactive display where visitors of the Newseum Institute answered the question “Have the protests in Ferguson made a difference?” by placing a marker on a board in either a Yes or No column. The markers showed that a majority thought that “No,” the protests had not made a difference. In a way, I understand this response; not enough major pieces of legislation or concrete action have been accomplished since the movement began, so it is reasonable to say that not much of a difference has been made. However, I placed my marker on the “Yes” column. I believe that the early protesters of the Black Lives Matters movement and in Ferguson profoundly changed the trajectory of US political culture. The discussions sparked across the nation shifted public consciousness. Looking back at our history, I saw how important it was for our ancestors to “Make Some Noise,” and I learned that speaking out always makes a difference.

Networking in Washington

by Robynn Singer-Baefsky

 

The Mansion on O Street is a hidden treasure in the middle of the historical Dupont Circle district of Washington, D.C. This peculiar house has over one hundred rooms, seventy secret doors, and is filled to the brim with memorabilia. It was the perfect spot for the Emerson networking event for Emerson students currently enrolled in the Washington, D.C. internship program, CPLA alumni, Emerson faculty, and those of us who visited Washington with CPLA in October.

President Lee Pelton spoke at the event and addressed Emerson’s recent accomplishments, including its new ranking as the number-one journalism school in the U.S. He opened up the room for questions (though time was not necessarily permitting), and nodded and smiled when he was immediately asked about the Boston Globe article discussing the future of the Colonial Theatre. It seemed the question was staged, considering his decision to field questions and the nature of his response; he wanted to address the matter to people who would spread his message to others in the Emerson Mafia.

During the networking part of the evening, people split off into groups to speak about their ambitions and interests and make professional connections.  It was a fun and interesting (albeit slightly overwhelming) place to meet people with similar interests, or who had graduated Emerson with the same degree that I am working for.

The networking event was an eye-opening chance to see what an Emerson education and hard work can do.  The alumni in attendance epitomize the opportunities Emerson offers, and what doors open simply by being a graduate of the college.

Visiting Congress

by Arianna Conte, CPLA Treasurer

 

No trip to Washington D.C is complete without a trip to the U.S Congress, and CPLA had the opportunity to sit in on proceedings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. During the Senate session, we witnessed Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) and Senator John McCain (R, AZ) fist bump and hug; a truly historic moment. After that, the ten of us left the Senate with high hopes for the House, considering it was the day of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s testimony for her role in Benghazi.

We were faced with one of the longest lines I have ever seen. It took over half an hour to even reach the House chamber, presumably because everyone, ourselves included, wished to see where Hillary Clinton was called to testify. When we finally entered the House, the room was far from filled and two representatives were having and unexpectedly heated debate regarding US mining policies. The sponsor of the bill, from Wyoming, asked for increased mining of essential minerals in the United States in order to hinder the country’s dependence on international minerals. The other representative, from California, opposed the bill and stated that abandoned mines should be re-purposed for mineral drilling in an effort to be more environmentally conscious. We watched for about fifteen minutes before moving on to the next event in our packed itinerary.

This bill hearing was on my mind all day. It reminded me that what is important to me, what is considered a necessary issue in my part of the country, might not be a priority somewhere else, and vice versa. As a native New Englander mining nearly never crosses my mind, but it was clearly an important issue to those two representatives. It was a clear reminder for me that the United States government is a complicated, multi-faceted entity charged with the task of leaving the opinions of millions in the hands of a handful of people. Sitting in on this meeting gave a valuable view of the less-glamorous parts of government, and I am happy to have witnessed it.

Revisiting 9/11

by Alexandra Howard, CPLA Social Media Director

 

I was six years old when the planes struck the World Trade Center, and I remember it vividly. It was the first time I saw my parents truly petrified, the first time I had seen anyone completely glued to a television screen. I witnessed terror that day.

The 9/11 exhibit at the Newseum in Washington DC manages to capture the magnitude of the horrors of September 11th, 2001. Upon entering the exhibit you are immediately faced with a large piece of one of the Towers. This oddly shaped chunk of metal is one of the only scraps left from the wreckage. It encapsulates the obliteration that two planes caused and makes the room feel completely full and utterly empty all at once. Behind the piece of metal are newspaper headlines of the days following 9/11, offering images of flame and ash and sheer panic. The headlines are in countless languages, but they all seem to say the same thing: How could this possibly be happening?

Underneath the wall of newspapers, there is an entrance to a small screening room that plays a documentary about the people who reported live on 9/11. They were swallowed by the chaos of New York City when they tried to do their jobs and found themselves at the center of one of the United States’ darkest days. The reporters and cameramen and women who spoke throughout the film recalled the unmitigated confusion of reporting 9/11. On the one hand, it was their job to document the events and to tell the public what was happening. On the other, they were New Yorkers and they too were watching a piece of their city tumble from the sky; as the towers were engulfed in flames, so too were the news crews taken over by emotion. The film depicted countless clips of the reporters and camera crews abandoning professionalism and crying with their fellow New Yorkers.

While watching this film, I was flooded with emotions and memories of that day. I found myself entranced by the film and ultimately found it quite difficult to walk out of that room. The Newseum impeccably exhibits the anxiety and panic that flooded New York on 9/11, while paying homage to those who lost their lives and to a city that will never be the same again.

Communication, Politics and Art in D.C.

By Rose Warren

The 555 foot tall Washington Monument. The 223 year old White House. The $3 million dollar Lincoln Memorial. None am I as excited for as Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial.

I’ve only been at Emerson for one semester, but it has already provided me so much. Professor Cher Knight has already taught me so much about art history and concept inIntroduction to Visual Arts. Organizations like CPLA have offered unique experiences and an outlet to apply my education. I am extremely excited to utilize both of these assets on the CPLA trip to Washington D.C.

As the Intro to Art textbook Living with Art outlines, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “has served to bring a community together.” Unlike the other massive monuments in the U.S. National Mall, the Vietnam Memorial is subdued and humble. Lin was asked to make an objective place to commemorate those lost during the controversial war. Whether or not this is an unbiased piece of art is debatable, but either way this sculpture is a place of reflection and remembrance. I am very excited to reinforce the lesson when in the presence of the piece. Learning about the politics surrounding the creation and reception of the monument is also vital to understanding it. Citizens were upset because a young college student, who also happened to be Asian, was chosen to create the memorial. The claimed non-objectivity has been in question since Lin commented: “I imagined a taking a knife and cutting into the earth…the grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in the earth with a polished, mirrored surface.” Her description can be understood simply as a design influence, or as a commentary on how governments deal with war and its aftermath. This brings into question the motivation of Lin’s art.

When I arrive at the memorial it will be very interesting to see how all the information I have been taught on the subject will influence my reaction to it. I am also excited to see the reactions of others. Being able to enhance one aspect of learning with an opportunity from another is amazing and something I am so grateful to be able to experience.