The reflection below is from rising Senior Bonner Katja Kleine, who is in her second summer of interning with the advocacy organization RESULTS in Washington, DC.
Written By: Katja Kleine
This summer, I am working for RESUTLS, a grassroots advocacy organization that focuses on ending hunger and the worst aspects of poverty domestically and abroad. What I love about working with RESULTS is making the connections between national policies and what I see in North Carolina, Virginia and walking the streets of Washington, D.C. It’s easy to get caught up with numbers or statistics, and forget the actual people those numbers are representing. That’s why it’s so exciting to be a Bonner working for a national advocacy organization. I have had the opportunity to become immersed in my community at Washington and Lee, and learn its struggles, strengths and biases. So when I hear about national policies and changes I can actually picture what effect they would have on my community.
I also get to see the unique benefits of direct versus indirect experiences. There are aspects that I love about each of them and ones I could do without, but they are both extremely important. It’s exciting to get to think of our whole country as a community and see what we can accomplish on a national scale to reach to most people and bring the most relief. But I also recognize that we can’t always capture the intricacies of a certain smaller community on a national scale. That’s why it is important to be involved in your local community; just befriending neighbors and being polite at the grocery store can go a long way to understanding the culture of the place that you live. And at the same time, it is important to know your elected officials, make your voice heard to elected officials, and educate yourself and others about how countries national decisions.
Another thing that I have noticed during my time in Washington, D.C. is that too often people get caught up with the inefficiencies and problems, which leads them to not get involved or participate civically. Yes, our country has problems and it is important and healthy to discuss and fight for things we believe. But, at the same time, we are all so lucky to live in a place where we can advocate and participate in rational discourse. I love that Americans are questioning and critical because that means we are thinking. Yet, we need to remind ourselves that it is inefficient to get discouraged to the point of taking no attack. Take a moment to celebrate the accomplishments are country has made. And if not that, to at least celebrate that we get to live in a place where we are our views are continually challenged and we get to speak up against decisions we don’t like. This is not meant to suppress frustrations with our country; in fact expressing those frustrations are the sign of active thinking and progress. Rather, it is just a subtle reminder of why it is great.