Inauguration Trip 2009

A group of SMU communications and journalism students led by Rita Kirk, professor in the Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in Meadows School of the Arts, is headed to Washington, D.C., in January 2009 for Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Day 2 in photos

i-ElizabethL.jpg An update from Elizabeth, a junior CCPA major:

Eliz2.jpgRight: The view through the gate at the South Lawn of the White House. It was 33 degrees outside, a big change from the 19 degrees of Saturday.

Eliz3.jpgLeft: Standing on the Atlantic side of the World War II Memorial. Every state is represented by a pillar. I found Texas and Florida, where I’m from. There is usually flowing water and fountains, but due to the cold temperature the water spouts had frozen over!

Eliz4.jpgRight: The Washington Monument from the WWII memorial. It’s a lot bigger up close! And absolutely freezing when you’re up on the hill right next to it.

Eliz5.jpgLeft: The thousands of people waiting for the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. It was still four hours away, and people were already filling up more than halfway down the Reflection Pool.

Eliz6.jpgRight: The Hilton Garden Inn – Our home for this adventure.

Eliz1.jpgLeft: The huge American flag inside the Gaylord International Hotel where we’re volunteering for the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots Ball on Monday night. We were there for training and to get credentials and to familiarize ourselves with the hotel layout.

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Preparing for the Black Tie and Boots Ball

i-mollie-sm.jpgAn update from Mollie, a junior CCPA major:

Excitement begins as we prepare to volunteer at the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball that will take place tomorrow evening.

We drove out in a squished taxi cab to the Gaylord Resort in Maryland. The beautiful grounds and event center were packed with people checking in and busy employees trying to prepare for the ball. The convention center is enormous, overlooking the beautiful water.

Our volunteer introduction gave us directions and specifics about tomorrow night. We are required to work two-hour shifts and then will have time to enjoy the ball ourselves. We will be working in the Texas Fair and will be in charge of assisting Texas Fair staff, and answering questions from any guests and vendors. We will do whatever we can to make their night enjoyable.

The dress is formal, and long dresses and men in handsome tuxedos and suits are a must. It will be a night to remember, and we are all very excited.

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Nonprofits: Making the change you believe in

i-jessica-sm.jpgAn update from Jessie, a senior CCPA major and Spanish and Human Rights minor:

As the time for me to graduate into the “real world” continues to creep up on me, I find myself constantly contemplating the options for my first job/career come May graduation. Here in D.C. we have been given the opportunity to meet with various SMU alumni who have generously shared their success stories with us, not to mention all their biases toward life on Capitol Hill.

As I have specialized in nonprofit communication within my CCPA major, at this evening’s alumni reception I enjoyed talking to various alumni about not only the amazing number of nonprofit organizations in D.C., but also their successes at their organizations.

Besides being the place for politics, one alumni told me that D.C. is also a hub for many nonprofit organizations, which he estimated provide around 50 percent of the jobs in the city. A theme for many of my conversations this evening was how great it is to work in a city where you are surrounded by people who want to truly help you make the change you believe in. Through my conversations with alumni I have come to the understanding that D.C. itself is a micro representation of the intertwining of the government, corporate and nonprofit sector that is occurring worldwide.

With Obama’s campaign for hope and change and his inauguration growing ever closer, I believe this is also a great moment for nonprofit organizations to let our President-Elect know just how important their missions are to the future of our world. For me, the most important part of working for a nonprofit is the understanding of what you need to do to accomplish its mission, and the idea that we can change our nation for the better through nonprofit mission accomplishment exudes hope in my service heart.

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Advice from D.C. professionals

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An update from Cody, a junior with a political science major and CCPA minor:

So far we’ve had two alumni events and also met with other alumni and professionals who are working in Washington, D.C. They are very successful, and many graduated no more than two years ago. Here is some of the advice they’ve shared with us:

– It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

– Show up to everything.

– Network, network, network.

– Always be nice.

– Build your resume (always have an internship).

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Key to networking: confidence

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An update from Christene, a junior CCPA major and business minor:

I’ve always been an outgoing person, but today I found out it takes more than being an extrovert to network. Today, we had several opportunities to meet and mingle with SMU Alumni who work in various fields, including government law, music and entertainment, finance, and broadcast, and it took more than energy for me to make the most of it.

In a common social environment, I usually find it easy to spark a conversation, find common interests, and eventually unleash bursts of laughter. However, in a business and networking environment, I learned that there are unspoken rules of demeanor that must be followed. It starts with attire.

Yesterday, I wore gray slacks, a black sweater, black pumps, a long white coat, and topped off with my “Student Media” badge. People looked at me curiously perhaps wondering if I’m a staff member. Today, my attire was a little more casual and I felt a difference in the glances people gave me.

However, the more important factor, I learned, was how I carried myself. The difference in how people reacted with me was a response to my self-confidence. Amazingly, the more I smiled, the more pleasant responses I received. But during times when I got paranoid and thought, “I’m not dressed up enough,” or “I’m too dressy,” my demeanor was affected by my thoughts and probably carried myself less confidently and joyfully than usual.

Therefore, I’ve decided that my normally optimistic and zealous spirit is not dictated or controlled by my outer appearance. On the contrary, my outer appearance is a manifestation of all the joy flowing from within. It’s great; feels like real freedom.

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Tales from the ‘stache

An update from Brad, a junior with a double major in economics and CCPA, and a history minor:

About two weeks ago, my friend and I entered a competition – a competition among men to see who could go the longest without shaving their moustache. When I first set out, I did not think that I could make it past a week. Then I began to think, I’m going to have to shave it for my trip to Washington, D.C.

It has now been two weeks, and I am finished with day two of my trip, and the moustache is still going strong. Not only is it going strong, it also has sparked a few conversations and provided entertainment to my fellow classmates. The most notable of the conversations occurred today at the alumni reception. I had a conversation with a man named James, a fellow moustache grower and a father-in-law of an SMU alum.

Given his moustache was quite fuller than mine, I approached him with confidence and started a conversation based on our “moustache connection.” We began to talk about how long he had been growing his moustache, along with a few grooming tips, as well as some funny stories that have happened because of his moustache. We then proceeded into conversations about careers, my future plans, and he even offered his advice on jobs and recommendations for life after college.

This conversation altered the course of my day because I felt I was able to make a professional connection with this man merely because of my moustache. Although I am a newbie to the moustache world, as he and most of my fellow classmates can attest to, I was amazed how easy it is to make a connection based on something as simple as a moustache. I have always tried quite hard, in some cases too hard, to fish for something that a person and I can connect on so that the conversation remains interesting. Today, I realized that maybe I do not have to try so hard to do that.

I’m not saying everyone should go out and grow a moustache, and I’m not saying that the moustache is the reason for a life-altering realization. But it made me realize how simple it is to make a connection with someone and strike up a conversation. If you take a step back and realize how simple things can be (even as simple as not shaving your upper lip), the world is a lot better place to live in.

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It’s a small world after all

i-meredith.jpg An update from Meredith, a junior CCPA major and business minor:

You never realize how small the world is until you randomly run into someone who graduated from the same small high school that you thought no one knew existed. But today, with one simple conversation, my world got smaller.

It turns out a Washington local who graduated from SMU also graduated from my small run-of-the-mill high school in Jefferson City, Missouri. Yes, Edward is a fellow proud Jay Bird who also experienced the same high school glory days as I did. Our conversation immediately sparked as we bonded over the great assets a small town has to offer. “I never meet anyone from Jefferson City,” he said.

After sharing similar high school stories, Edward explained his move to Washington and his passion for journalism. We discussed his journalism position while I expressed my interest in crisis management, the potential for law school and writing. “I have something you should read,” he said. He explained that the article was about Obama’s speeches and the rhetorical devices used within each speech. Because I am passionate about writing I decided to later find the article.

As the conversation ended, Edward and I exchanged cards. When he walked away, I realized how important it is to network and meet people who have similar interests. Even just listening to a passionate individual convey advice and personal experience is inspiration for success. Edward’s move from a small city to a big city encouraged me to continue taking chances and follow my dreams. His similar story hit home, and I smiled as I realized it’s a small world after all.

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The right place at the right time

i-maggie-sm.jpgAn update from Maggie, a junior CCPA major:

Networking is a funny thing. One walks a fine line between brown-nosing and sincerity.

In the 34 hours I have been in D.C., I have heard stories all across the board. One 25-year-old gentleman was the press assistant for the office of press secretary for President Bush and has traveled to 23 different countries on Airforce 1 with the president the past few years. On Friday, he and his family took a photo with the president in the Oval Office and walked out of the White house for the last time as Bush’s administration is coming to an end. I asked him, “How did you land this job?” He responded, “I was at the right place at the right time.”

As we met with SMU alumni tonight, everyone seemed to have a similar story. He met his boss at a reception and exchanged business cards and emailed a resume the next week and then interviewed the next. She was introduced to her firm through a professor who put her in touch with someone, she landed an interview, and then the next month she was working in her dream job. Again, “How did you get where you are?” The response is, “Knowing the right people and being at the right place at the right time.”

Meeting these people, listening to their stories encourages me to use these networking opportunities when they present themselves. Perhaps all that it takes is a little practice.

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Political rock star

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An update from Kelsey, a junior CCPA major:

Barack Obama plays many roles to many people. To some he is a role model, to others a minister, a catalyst for change, a Martin Luther King, Jr. incarnate. When he speaks, millions of Americans stand as if hypnotized by his voice and listen to his words with an adoration and attention so intense, you’d think he was a rock star. I must congratulate President-elect Obama on picking incredible speechwriters and using his knowledge of rhetoric to leave the entire nation – or at least 80 percent of it – utterly spellbound.

However, I have to admit this idol worship needs a limit. As amazing, awesome, inspiring, and intelligent as Obama is, he is not the messiah.

Let me repeat that: President-elect Barack Obama is not the messiah.

OK, now that I’ve stuck my neck on the chopping block, let me clarify my statement. Yes, Obama has the potential to be one our greatest presidents. Yes, he inspired millions of Americans, including myself, to exercise our civic duty and cast our ballots on Election Day. And yes, he ingratiated himself into the hearts of the public and became the poster boy for Hope and Change.

But Barack Obama is still a man. And men are not infallible. He has come to the plate with multiple promises to fulfill, an economy on the down turn, and major industries needing government bailouts. The changes he promised will come to fruition eventually, not overnight, and I think some people are having a hard time remembering this. By raising Obama on a pedestal, the public that adores him so passionately could potentially turn into a pack of wolves when, after his first 100 days, or 1,000 days, or his first term as president, the promises he made went undelivered.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that while Americans should celebrate this event with pride and hope, they should also be careful to keep in mind that this man is just that, a man, a leader, and a political rock star.

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A memorial for this generation’s war

i-jessica-sm.jpgAn update from Jessie, a senior CCPA major and Spanish and Human Rights minor:

Remembering the struggles and successes of American history remains an integral part of the culture in Washington, D.C., as the Mall holds memorials of the presidents and wars whose legacies shall never be forgotten.

As we walked on the Mall, we discussed the controversy that surrounded the war memorials, reflecting on the neoclassic style of the WWII memorial, as well as the post-modernism of the Vietnam War and the Korean War memorial. Each of these memorials remains an artistic and intellectual representation of wars that have brought both tragedy and peace, or disgrace and honor to this nation. To remember the people who gave their lives for the ideals of democracy and freedom, these memorials offer a place of expression and commemoration.

In my own reflection, it struck me that someday there will be a memorial for the War in Iraq, whether it is classified as the “War on Terror” or the war against “Islamic Fundamentalism.” As Barack Obama assumes the presidency, it will be interesting to see how the Iraq War images of his administration compare to those of the Bush Administration, and how the public will remember and understand this war in American history. What makes the Iraq War unique is its relationship with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as it was created as a war to protect the safety of American citizens against radical terrorists and evolved into a war of questionable truths and ethics.

I believe a memorial should be established for the people of my generation to reflect upon what the Iraq War has meant to American history and how it has both united and divided this nation’s people. Because this war remains so controversial, it will be many years before a memorial exists; however, in order for people to draw their own conclusions to this period in history, I believe an artistic representation of the Iraq War is essential.

The future of the Iraq War remains uncertain, although Obama has developed a plan for the removal of American troops in Iraq. Classified as a “war based on lies,” “the greatest mistake of the Bush administration,” a necessary war toward defeating the “axis of evil,” the future has yet to tell what this war will truly mean for the American people.

However, through my observation of the existing war memorials on the Mall, a memorial for this war will be a necessary step toward reconciling its meaning and place in history.

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