By: Erika Lang
My name is Erika Lang and I am a rising senior at Marianna High School. This summer, I was privileged to participate in the July 13th-19th, 2008 Presidential Classroom in Washington, D.C. While I was there, I took a course on Intelligence & National Security where I explored the federal government at work, and experienced how policy-making works within the democratic process.
I joined 160 other high school juniors and seniors from 36 different states and other countries, including, Puerto Rico, Germany, and Brazil. We spent an entire week at the Georgetown University Conference Center in the heart of Georgetown University. All of the students that participated in the Presidential Classroom program were split up in Caucuses, where we participated in a hands-on simulated National Security Crisis with our peers.
We also were involved in many seminars and crossfire’s, where we debated over constitutional rights and current issues within our government. In addition, I observed the American political process on Capitol Hill, visited various intelligence organizations, and visited many of our nation’s historical sites.
Among the many intelligence agencies that I visited were the Central Intelligence Agency; (where we actually met a spy), National Security Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. I also had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Homeland Security where the guest speaker was John Moran, the Chief Emergency Preparedness Transportation Safety Adm. Dept. Homeland Secretary. I later attended a seminar at the State Department, this time the guest speaker was Dr. Kenneth Staley, Acting Deputy Secretary for Counter-proliferation.
Other activities for the week included debating key current issues, hearing from numerous Congressmen and professionals, visiting the National Archives, and watching a video on the war in Iraq called "No End in Sight". I also participated in a seminar about Public Service and Congress on the Floor of the House of Representatives. This seminar was taught by the Honorable Todd Akin, R-MO.
I was inspired as I toured historic sites around Washington, D.C. such as the White House, Grant’s Statue, Washington Monument, Peace Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Einstein Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Navy Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. I toured the American Indian Museum, Air & Space Museum, National Archives, Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. I had my lunches at the Old Post Office, Union Station, The Pentagon Mall, and the Supreme Court Café.
While on Capital Hill, I had private appointments with Senator Mel Martinez and Senator Bill Nelson. I also had an appointment with Congressman Allen Boyd, whom I personally met.
My favorite part of the trip was our trip to Arlington National Cemetery. I was worried at first, due to a national hazard delay. Fortunately, we had an amazing staff and they worked out a way so that Presidential Classroom could still get into the cemetery. We visited the Kennedy’s Gravesites and the Tombs of the Unknown. We witnessed a funeral in progress while we were there, then made our way up to the tomb to watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. The Presidential Classroom was fortunate enough to participate in a Wreath Laying Ceremony as well.
It was a hectic schedule, waking up at five in the morning and going to bed after eleven at night. The entire time there, we were required to wear business attire, even if there was 95 degree weather. Wherever the bus could not drive, we walked, and we had schedules, and time restrictions everywhere we went. There was not a minute I was bored.
It was a very educational, yet very exciting trip. I made many lasting friendships, and we are all still in touch through modern technology. A lot of things have changed due to this trip, perhaps my intended college major. I was once very interested in architecture, but now I am leaning towards political science or national intelligence.
I would personally like to thank all the businesses, local organizations, and private citizens for all the support you have given me. Thank you so much for your encouragement, valuable insight, and for believing in me.