Monday was the first day of Honors College, and we had the opportunity to visit two incredible organizations — New America and the National Endowment for Democracy. Both were interesting and educational and provided valuable context for some of our visits later in the week.
At New America, we met with Brigid Schulte from the Better Life Lab, as well as Mark Schmitt, Lee Drutman, and Maresa Strano from the Political Reform Program. We learned about the variety of projects New America works on, as well as their important role in developing the discussion around innovative policy solutions, including expanding paid family and medical leave and the use of fusion voting.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and spoke with Christopher Walker, the Vice President for Studies and Analysis, Miriam Kornblith, the Senior Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Damon Wilson, President of the NED. We were also joined by 2020 CDDRL alumnus Justin Daniels, who now works at the NED as the Assistant Editor for the Journal of Democracy. We heard all about the NED’s important work funding organizations working on democratic development around the world, and the unique scale at which they operate. We discussed the ways in which they interact and support democratic activists as well as how they respond to challenges and setbacks in the accomplishment of their mission, specifically skepticism around their ultimate intentions. They also mentioned a number of their partners and the work that they are doing around the world, which was a fascinating view into the practical work happening around the world to prevent further democratic decline and begin a democratic resurgence.
Our cohort also took time to explore the many museums around Washington. Monday afternoon, we decided to stop by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, to see some of the amazing collections the Smithsonian hosts. We enjoyed having the time to get to know each other and learn more about our theses. The discussion inspired some new questions for myself and others and helped us to better understand and approach our research questions.
Monday was an excellent beginning to our time in Washington D.C., and our visits to New America and the National Endowment for Democracy introduced guiding questions about democracy and its benefits which we would return to across the many other organizations we visited over our time in Washington.