State of the Union: Two Sided Coin


I think it will surprise exactly no one when I say that Washington, D.C. is a really, really political town.

(Duh. My friend Molly is convinced she saw John McCain on the elliptical at the gym near the dorms.)

What’s exciting, though, is seeing so many young people so heavily involved in politics. We see SEGL graduates a few times a week when they eat dinner with us, and whether they’re excited about a class they’re taking at George Washington University or leaving before study hall to get to their job at the Democratic National Committee meeting, it’s amazing to know that this school is setting us up to stray from the sad trend of youth disillusioned with and apathetic about the U. S. government.

But it’s not just the SEGL graduates. All 23 of my fellow students have rapidly developing political stances. I love that there’s wide ranges of everything here — not only on what side of the political spectrum you fall on, but how it’s generally accepted that hello, we’re 17.

We’re still learning about every side of every story, trying to expand our knowledge on politics before we can vote (actually, a friend of mine received her absentee voter package in advance of her mid-September 18th birthday. We are probably one of few school groups ever who were quite so excited to see that package in the mail.).

The community’s intense commitment to learning takes a variety of forms, some more in our comfort zone than others. It’s one thing to defend your political ideology over a discussion about Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and whether or not humans are inherently good or evil. It’s quite another thing for my conservative roommate to accompany a group of us to a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to protest defunding of Planned Parenthood and hold up pro-choice signs.

I love that none of us have an exactly identical political view. It makes discussions and debates so interesting and passionate, and these discussions really drive us every day.

From submitting proposals to hold all-school discussions to just “dropping a question in” once a discussion has already been started (that quote is thanks to our director, Noah Bopp, who always accompanies the phrase with the gesture of physically dropping something into the circle), the students fuel the discussion with our varied points of view.

The most interesting thing out of all of this, I think, is how quickly we can go from yelling and standing on chairs during a calm discussion on raising the minimum wage to being best of friends again. Apart from the aforementioned roommate, two of my best and most trusted friends here have wildly different political views than I do. The great thing is, though, and maybe this comes with youth: everyone here is incredibly open-minded. And I don’t mean that they’re willing to listen to any social reform or anything like that. I just mean that everyone here genuinely wants to learn from each other and hear someone else’s side of the argument.

It’s a form of maturity I really hope a certain group of people who work just up the street from our residence hall adopt pretty soon (seriously, how long can gridlock last?). One of our cornerstones is having an atmosphere of shared vulnerability to foster the best learning environment. In this kind of atmosphere, people feel free to share their own opinions — and it might be surprising, but oftentimes, they’re just on the other side of the coin from your own.