What’s a Think Tank?

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is an independent nonprofit public policy think tank with almost 80 years of experience in American political and economic research. Although the think tank is noted as a bipartisan research firm, AEI tends to sway to the political right in their intensive research in free enterprise economics, neoconservative foreign policy, and traditional social values. The current president of AEI is Dr. Arthur Brooks who has served as the president since 2009. Before his admission to the presidency, he was an economics professor at Syracuse University in New York. AEI was formed in 1938 during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. During the Great Depression, the economy became increasingly regulated by the government leading economists and political scientists to question how to better understand the American economy and America’s role in the world both economically and politically. Through AEI’s research in public policy, academics, public and private officials have had the ability to understand the substance of public policy and how we can develop better policies for the American people. The rise in popularity of political economics and foreign policy, especially with the rising geo-political phenomena of that time period became the stepping stone to the creation of research firms like AEI that were then used to help assess the economic state of the United States. AEI is one of the most popular think tanks in the United States, with over 60 full-time scholars providing public policy research for the public. Many of these scholars are former political staffers, senators, congressman, military officials, and leading economists from across the United States and the world. Furthermore, to clarify, a think tank in essence is a university, but without students. However, AEI holds a summer honors program for select students to participate in a weeklong course studying a section of public policy. I was lucky enough to be accepted into this program. I spent a week studying defense policy with the famous neoconservative Tom Donnelly and went to Gettysburg to analyze the strategies used in fighting the famous battle. In general, AEI is a fantastic place to intern and has an amazing history to back up my current experience.

Since my last blog post about being a small fish in a big ocean, the ocean is actually shrinking and I am meeting more people than ever before. I have met so many people, young and old, that it is very difficult to remember every name. There are two people in particular that I have met in the AEI honors program last week who are very interesting. One girl is named Miriam who is also interning on Capitol Hill. Before AEI, she did some military service in Israel for 6 months. Another person I met is named Sam who just recently graduated out of George Washington and is from New York City. We got to know each other well when he noted that he speaks French. Being that I am French and that I am also fluent, we ended up speaking in French to one another on the entire two hour bus ride back to Washington from Gettysburg.

Being in Washington means you are constantly learning. Learning about yourself, about the city, about our country, and about the world around us. One thing in particular that I learned is how to slow down when life is feeling fast. Washington D.C is a high paced environment with a constant rush hour of people running down the escalators and potentially making it to work on time. Being a laid back west-coaster, it can be a bit stressful when adapting to this environment. I learned to always take moments to breathe and look at your surroundings. Essentially, be mindful that you are here in Washington D.C. You are in the capital of the most powerful country on earth! You might as well relax and enjoy the process. You will feel stressed in many situations, but being stressed is not the problem. It truly is about how you handle yourself and your surroundings and the tasks in front of you. Since my last blog post, I am now an expert on how to use the metro system, even helping tourists in need on a daily basis. But on a personal level, I have learned that if you just take some time to slow down and enjoy where you are, you will get a lot more out of this amazing city. I am settling into this amazing city, but I am not settling down, this experience has just begun!

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