I went into the Mount Vernon field trip with an open mind. Having not refreshed myself on George Washington trivia, I did not know exactly what to expect once I arrived at his estate. To my surprise, we arrived at the beautiful National Harbor where childhood memories came rushing back into my head. For, my family used to have a 40-foot boat that looked identical to some of the boats in the pier. After a few snapped photos and reminiscing text messages to my family group message, the group and I were off to Washington’s Plantation. (I only add that side note because from that point on, the day continued to get more-and-more depressing)
The boat that we took there was an old barge that someone decided to turn into a small business. With the lackluster concession stand and chairs packed together like sardines, a few close friends and I decided to stand on the back platform; to and from the estate. It was here where I was able to relax and breathe in the fresh air. For once, I felt like I was out of the big city and back in my hometown. The trees and the water; one simply can’t beat that. I was–and still am–fortunate to have been able to “escape” from the circus that is Washington, DC at the moment.
When we arrived at Washington’s plantation, I thought there was a surprisingly large amount of people in attendance. I thought that Mt. Vernon was simply a house that someone could spend a few minutes in and that was it; I couldn’t have been more wrong. During my time there, I was able to see Washington’s whole estate, along with the partnering side buildings that helped make up its entirety. Personally, when I picture in my head a “mansion/plantation” I think of a wide spreading home. However, I thought that the house was a lot smaller than expected; although just as immaculate as expected.
One thing that I found very offensive was that of the “slave memorial”. Granted the vast majority of nobility during Washington’s time utilized slave labor, the way in which Mt. Vernon addressed the concern was almost secondary. It felt as if one should admire the glory that is our first President’s estate, all with little acknowledgment of the individuals that actually made his ideas a reality. For, I presume, the idea—of narrow-minded Americans– is that Washington’s hands were the ones that physically laid red shingle after red shingle, or set column after column, yet this ignorant thought could not be more wrong; for, without his slaves, the President wouldn’t have had a bed to sleep in. President Washington may have increased his slave population greatly after marrying his wife, but that still does not mean that their treatment of the –at one time—second-class citizens was humane nor acceptable for the leader of the free world. However, Donald Trump is currently our President so I guess a slave owner doesn’t amount to our worst leadership in our history…
In closing, I would just like to shed light upon the hypocrisy that was; that is, and that will always be. This was the leader of the “Free World”. This was the man we were taught in elementary school as a real-life Superman; Our first Commander-in-Chief. Remove the smoke and mirrors, and one is left with the depressing story of how a select few–Washington–prospered on the “backs” of the less fortunate.
One thing that I learned over the past week was that “less is more” when it comes to policy briefings. I had to write some policy briefing memos for the Vice President of my team this week and what I thought was “too short” was ultimately “way too long”. My direct report that I had screened the memos I wrote before they got into the hands of the VP had to cut more than half of the fluff that I had added into the briefing. For, I am used to having to reach a page number or word count during my academic writing, and presumably, more is always better. After this awkward encounter and discourse, I have now written more than 5 memos for other individuals in our departments—making sure I was keeping to the point—and I have received positive feedback from them. I have found that if each and every word in a sentence does not add to the substantial content of the piece, such words shall be deleted. This internship has made me a better writer and I look forward to learning, even more, ways on how I can be a better writer and further continue my policy field aspirations.