Honors College Day 2: In The Rooms Where (Democracy) Happens

This is the second in a series of blog posts written by the Fisher Family Honors Program class of 2023 detailing their experiences in Washington, D.C. for CDDRL's annual Honors College.
CDDRL honors students the the White House

From walking down the same hallways as Vice President Kamala Harris to watching a stunning performance of Hamilton at the Kennedy Center, our second day of Honors College was unforgettable.

We kicked off our morning with a visit to the National Security Council (NSC) at one of our nation’s most esteemed buildings: the White House. There, we met Tarun Chhabra ‘02, Senior Director Directorate for Technology & National Security. It was incredible getting to meet and chat with Tarun, who generously shared both his experiences working in government and his expertise on the constantly evolving security challenges we’re facing today. While we’ve learned about national security, economic power, and foreign policy to some degree in our classrooms, it was an immense privilege to hear from someone immersed in these critical decision-making processes on a day-to-day basis. 

CDDRL honors students at the National Security Council CDDRL honors students visit the National Security Council in Washington, D.C.

In the afternoon, we headed to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, or IFES, where we heard from the president and CEO Anthony Banbury, and Dr. Cassandra Emmons, their Democracy Data Analysis. IFES works to advance and strengthen democracy around the world and has worked in over 145 countries since its founding in 1987. During the visit, the students learned about the Election Integrity program and the different ways that IFES helps to secure safe and effective elections as a pathway to democracy. Additionally, the visit touched on how IFES and its goals have evolved over time and how they have learned through field experience and data how to best serve these new goals, especially when the risks posed to democracy around the world are at their highest. Learning how this organization works to support democracy was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far!

How does a ragtag group of honors students spend their nights in the nation's capitol? On Tuesday evening, after resting and getting dressed up, we headed to the Kennedy Center to watch the critically acclaimed musical, Hamilton. Witnessing the (nearly accurate) historical recount of the birth of our nation through the lens of one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, is always a treat, especially in the heart of Washington D.C. Amid visits to think tanks and government agencies, Hamilton gave us the sing-along footnotes version of how democracy came to be here in the U.S. and the efforts that went into protecting it. Though the days in Honors College are long, this musical (and the overpriced snacks we grabbed during intermission) was a wonderful way to close out a fascinating day. 

CDDRL honors students attend Hamilton at the Kennedy Center

Day 2 clearly was action-packed. We both returned to our hotel rooms with full hearts, tired feet, and of course, the Hamilton soundtrack stuck in our heads. But looking back, perhaps our favorite part of the day was simply getting to go full nerd-mode with everyone—whether it was over whose office we were passing by in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building or which musical number ultimately stole the show. It’s hard to come across a more caffeinated, strangely passionate group of Gen-Z’ers who are willing to unapologetically geek out about these sorts of things—we’re very glad we found this one.