This morning we split into groups and participated in various community service projects around D.C. Our project was to help out an elderly person with daily chores. We had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs. Vivian Adams. Miss Vivian is a very kind and spirited woman. She had us thoroughly clean her house. We never imagined cleaning could be that much fun and feel so good at the same time. To see the joy we brought to Miss Vivian was truly heartwarming. We did more than just clean her house; we made a friend.
-Lindsey Colton and Chelsea Bess
When we arrived at Vivian Adams house and she spoke to us about how appreciative she was that we came to help her. Several times she said, “God will bless you all individually and collectively.” During our time with her, she spoke about her relationship with her family. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t get to see her grandchildren often. It made me think about how much our just being in her house meant to her, and how much happier she would be if she got to be with her grandchildren. We worked really hard sweeping, mopping, and dusting her house. I felt good about what I was doing because I could tell how appreciative she was and that our presence in her home was also a joy to her. She commented on how we came smiling, worked smiling, and left smiling. As I walked out of the house, I heard her say, “I love you all.”
After visiting Ms. Vivian we went to another facility where our coordinator, Portia, introduced us to senior citizens that they take care of. We were introduced to Mr. Guy and Ms. EL who both were interesting people. Ms. El, in her 80’s was larger than life and showed us her “dance moves.” Mr. Guy also in his 80’s explained his service in World War II and all the languages he spoke. I watched Portia hold their hands and have an intimate relationship with them. It was really inspiring and touching, and made me realize the importance of community service.
We spent the morning working at the Washington Parks and People, an organization that works to restore run-down parks in the D.C. area. We worked in a park in a low-income neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. The park was named after Marvin Gaye because he was from that neighborhood.
We were met by Benham, an Iranian immigrant who fled his country to avoid religious persecution due to his Baha’i faith. He told us about how Marvin Gaye Park had once been used as a garbage dump, and how it had earned the nickname “Needles Park” because of all the people who went there to shoot heroin. Seven years later, Marvin Gaye Park is much improved. It is now a beautiful and open space. Washington Parks and People runs an after school program in the park and is planning a sleep-over this Saturday night in the park for sixty children. They have also started a weekly Farmers Market so that there is fresh produce available to the people in the neighborhood. Before this, individuals had to take two buses to buy produce.
Interview with Betty Hudson
National Geographic Executive Vice President, Communications
As a little kid, I grew up with National Geographic magazines stacked up in our living room. Sometimes when I was alone, I’d flip through the stunning pictures with an open mouth. So, needless to say, I was excited when we got the opportunity to interview Betty Hudson, the Vice President of Communications at the National Geographic Society.
Our interview went very well. Betty Hudson came across as a kind, clever, and intelligent woman. She created a unique atmosphere in the room. From her comments it was clear that she completely supported National Geographic’s goal which is to inspire people to care about the planet. She also talked about the importance of sticking together and supporting each other. She said that supporting people in general, and caring about things other than us, is extremely important. At one point she said, “With knowing comes caring, and with caring comes action”.
As she talked about the hope she sees spreading across the globe, it became apparent that she is committed to revealing the beauty of the world to every person and to creating more kindness and compassion in everyone’s lives.
A high ceiling towered over a huge wooden table lined with chairs. Warm light played over treasures tucked into glass cases, and our chairs made barely a sound as we slid into this hall of kings, the Board Room of the National Geographic.
Towards the end of the interview with Betty Hudson I stammered out my impromptu question, “Um, well, is it, um, the viewers responsibility to uh, filter what they watch? Or the like, uh broadcasting companies?” I felt like an idiot, but the question was sound. In response she said that she wished schools taught media literacy.
Media literacy? I didn’t even understand the concept at first. It has always seemed to me that it is our own perception of the world that affects how we view television, but her idea began to make perfect sense to me. If one doesn’t know how to take in news, one is not connected to one’s environment. Betty Hudson’s remarks reminded me that television is a relatively young industry. Perhaps society does not yet know how to fully adapt to such a revolutionary instrument.
Getting back to the hostel after a long day of running around D.C., I collapsed onto my bed. While resting, I had the opportunity to reflect back on the day. I found our interview with Betty Hudson inspiring. She said, “I never have goals, but I believe if I keep my head up and trust myself I will get where I want.” This hit home because I am constantly trying to make goals for myself. Betty Hudson helped me to see that I just need to trust myself. I will get where I want without forcing it.
Interview with Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley
Special Representative for Global Partnerships
Today, after jaywalking through the streets of D.C., eating in between interviews and sprinting to the metro, we interviewed Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley at the State Department. What struck me most about our interview with Ambassador Bagley was what she said about America and our role in the world. She told us that while she was the Ambassador to Portugal, Secretary of State Madeline Albright used the term “American Exceptionalism”. Ambassador Bagley said that many of the Portuguese she spoke with understood this term could be considered to be a claim of American superiority. However, Ambassador Bagley explained that “American Exceptionalism” refers to the fact that America is unique in many ways. We are known as the “melting pot” of the world because of our diversity, and we can have pride in our capacity for innovation and the many opportunities available here. Ambassador Bagley said that although the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have created many challenges, she believes that our image is improving and that as a nation we have both the capacity and duty to give back to the rest of the world.
Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley is a political powerhouse. Her accomplishments include serving as Ambassador for Portugal under the Clinton administration, playing a key role in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign for presidency, working for Senator Ted Kennedy, and currently being the representative for Global Partnerships. The Global Partnership initiative helps form social, economic, and political partnerships around the world.
Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley’s message was about the importance of hard work. It was clear and simple. If you are able to work hard while maintaining compassion and integrity, then people will value and appreciate your efforts. So far, this statement has held true for all of our interviews. Each interviewee has stated with conviction that they would not be where they are today had they not worked hard, struggled to prove themselves, and welcome new and difficult opportunities. Ambassador Bagley as well as Betty Hudson, Alyse Nelson and Layli Miller-Muro have taught me that the key to success is tenacity, accepting new opportunities, and working hard. Ambassador Bagley lived by her advice, and she is personal testimony of the success and effect it can have. We will be able to take the thoughts and ideas Ambassador Bagley shared with us and apply them to our lives.