Lifelong Learning Reflection
Service on A Global Scale
Often I think about how I found myself pursuing a career in Public Service. I can honestly say it is because of the people I have met during the course of my life that have inspired me to think of public service on a global scale. I have always attempted to live a life of selflessness, but to make it into a career is an entirely different battle. However, it is a battle worth fighting, and I am blessed to have met people in my life that inspired me to pursue a life of global public service. As I look back at the experiences I have been privileged to have; it is clear that what I thought were merely random moments of chance were actually significant moments toward a calling toward public service.
My time at Harvard University taught me that people from all over the world are so amazingly different. Meeting people from across the globe--including places I had not yet heard of--was such a fantastic experience. The world became so much bigger than Bryan, TX, and I learned that people were so entirely different, and that difference is so essential to understand and respect. Also, my summer in Washington, D.C. manifested a passion for policy and politics. My group, Team Marshall, also revealed in me a gift and passion for leading and public speaking due to my contributions in events and workshops such as Presidential simulations and partisan debates. Having spent my teenage summers at Harvard University and subsequently in Washington, D.C. sowed a seed within me that ultimately married my passion for policy and my love for international servitude.
However, my final summer abroad as a high school student was the most pivotal. Being in the Mediterranean during the Summer of 2011 was such an eye-opening experience. Having survived the Athens riots and being an active representative of the United States via public diplomacy taught me that I had a passion for not only international servitude but also foreign affairs. I knew then that I would eventually have to attend an institution like The Bush School of Government and Public Service to hone my interest in the noble calling that is public service.
My Introduction to International Relations - People to People Conference at Harvard University
My summer at Harvard University truly changed my worldview. As a teenager, I always knew there was a bigger world outside of Bryan, TX, but I never grasped how big and how different it truly is. What first started as a childhood dream manifested into an achievable passion for international relations. My time at Harvard University gave me a passion for people and cultures across the globe.
Ever since I was eight years old, I told myself I would attend Harvard University. This is because, at a young age, I heard through the grapevine that it was the number one university in the United States, and from that moment, I was determined to attend. I was determined to be the best. However, what came to fruition seven years later was a little different, and a little earlier than I thought. During my sophomore year in high school, I was nominated by one of my instructors to attend a summer leadership program with People to People. At the time, I had never heard of such an organization, let alone did I find myself worthy of a nomination such as this. However, it was not long before I was set to go to Harvard University for the summer.
Harvard was everything I had dreamed and more. The aesthetics of the campus alone were beyond anything I had ever seen before. The merge of contemporary-modern interior and the older exterior of the university was stunning. What stunned me even more, however, was the culture shock. When I registered for the program, I did not know I would be meeting people from all over the world. What I thought would be a small group of 20-50 people touring Harvard University turned out to be 500-750 people visiting all of the greater Boston area. I learned so much about the world from so many different people. Indeed, I was quite humbled to realize that my worldview was so limited. In my group alone, there were individuals from places I had never heard of until I met them.
My group consisted of young men and women who were from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, the United States, Hong Kong, Jordan, Isreal, the United Kingdom, and Paris. What I learned from them was not just about their geography or their culture, but I also learned about their religion, social customs, educational interests, and even how they see the world on a philosophical level. Every person was different, but as teenagers, we all had similar challenges and moral values. To subscribe to the cliche, "we aren't all that different" would indeed be a disservice to everything I learned from Suleman, Jordan, Dina, Leen, Wendy, Rochelle, Kathryn, Kristina, Petko, Angelle, and Ashina. That is because we indeed are different, and that is what makes us as people so exciting to those who are willing to learn from each other.
During my time at Harvard, each ambassador was tasked with coming up with a service project to bring back home. I have always had a desire to assist single mothers on a large scale. That demographic of women always resonated with me because I always wanted a better life for my mother while she was raising me. My mother, Sharon Ann Washington, performed her absolute best every day to provide for me, and I always wished I had the power and resources to make things easier for her. My fellow ambassadors had similar experiences, and their service projects came from a personal mindset as well. I was honored that they would share such experiences with me in confidence after only knowing each other for such a short time. The project I submitted for review was my plan to purchase and develop a large property to act as an all-inclusive center for single mothers, with lodging, daycare, career services, education services, lifestyle development, and extracurriculars. Fortunately, all of the People to People ambassadors found my service project worthy of nomination for the flagship service award, which I was honored to have received. The fact that my service project resonated with an international community taught me that we all have similar desires to see the world become a better place, especially for marginalized communities. It also taught me that I could resonate with people internationally, and therefore, I should further develop that skill.
My Introduction to Policy and Public Service - NYLC Conference in Washington, D.C.
The very first time I went to Washington, D.C., as a sophomore in high school, I learned quickly that leadership opens doors and opportunities. However, leadership does not taste quite as sweet without a supportive team. My gift for leadership caught me by surprise when my teammates continually nominated me for speaking events, simulations, and debates. Furthermore, I learned that having a team that is confident in me means that they not only seek my leadership, but they trust my skill set as well.
Admittedly, after my learning experience at Harvard, I was eager to spend my summer meeting more people, both foreign and domestic. Fortunately, I was nominated once again by a different instructor to attend the National Young Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. At the time, I had the seed of international affairs planted, but I did not know much about the concept of Political Science or Policy Analysis. Nonetheless, as soon as I stepped foot into Washington, D.C., for some cosmic reason unbeknownst to me, I was given immense responsibility. Up to that point in my life, I never thought of myself as an outstanding individual.
Up until Washington, D.C., most of my accomplishments came from hard work and general politeness--I always preferred to reside in the shadows keeping my head down. However, my group, "Team Marshall," pushed me to the front of the line to take on every task. In our first simulation, the group unanimously voted me to act as the President of the United States to handle a hostage situation regarding American citizens and Somali Pirates. My group was so impressed with how I handled being President that our group leader and chaperone, Robin, nominated me as the representative from Texas for our Congressional debate simulation. After several days of workshops, lectures, networking, and tours of Washington, D.C., the day had come for my debate. I was under the impression that the debate would be a separate simulation, with a smaller audience. It was not until the last possible minute that I realized this was a flagship event for NYLC, and all the NYLC ambassadors would be in attendance--all 700 of us. To add fire to the flame, I was the very last to speak. Whatever words came out of my mouth during my turn would become the most recent memory for a flagship event with over 700 attendees. Needless to say, my palms were sweaty, my knees were weak, and my arms were heavy.
Luckily, I was able to use the extra time to come up with something profound to say. Everyone was doing so well, and genuine applause filled the room after every ambassador spoke. I acknowledged that I was debating against some of the brightest students in the country. My fellow ambassadors had the advantage of attending schools and living in neighborhoods that I could only dream of. Some of my peers used data to back their claims and used the emotions of the room to engage, and for some, their arguments fell on deaf ears. As such, I was not sure which category I would fall into: "praise" or "backfire," but I knew I was intent on speaking truth to power. Therefore, when my turn arrived, I stepped up to the podium, addressed the room, and delivered my speech on the importance of bipartisan legislature, a unified Congress, and the hope for a better tomorrow amongst political parties. Upon delivering my speech, I was blessed to receive a roaring standing ovation. At that moment, I knew I might have a gift for policy.
The Merge of Public Service and International Relations - People to People Conference in Italy & Greece
My trip to Italy and Greece was the marriage of leadership, service, policy, and international relations. As a teenager, I recognized that public diplomacy was essential for the future of our relationships with other countries, even if I did not know what public diplomacy was as a teenager. Later on, in my academic career, I would come to realize that all of my People to People endeavors were public diplomacy efforts. Because of People to People, I was actively able to participate in public diplomacy amongst my peers. Looking back, this is indeed where I began to become aware of how I represent the United States, and how my love for international relations coexists with how I practice diplomacy.
During the summer of 2011, I was invited once again by People to People to attend a Leadership trip to Italy and Greece. During our time overseas, we would be a part of an ambassadorial mission and environmental service project. Much like my experience in Washington, D.C., I was pushed into the front lines of leadership when we landed in Athens, Greece. Initially, I assumed it was because I was slightly older than the rest of my group, and a little more charismatic, but as time went on, they kept looking toward me to make decisions and speak to the locals for assistance. This came to fruition quite early in Athens when our group was trapped in the middle of the city during a riot during the 2011 Athens protests. As the riot broke out, everyone became separated from our chaperone, and we had to look out for each other to make it back to our hotel safely, and I was tasked by my fellow ambassadors to lead the way.
Because I was able to contribute to getting my group back to our hotel safe and sound, throughout the entire program, I was often tasked with being the front-man when working on our environmental service projects, speaking with the locals, or assisting our chaperones. Whether it was climbing volcanoes, assisting with the preservation of sea turtles, learning cultural dances, making mozzarella cheese from scratch, or supporting our group with finding Greece and Italy's famous sights, I was given the honor and privilege of acting and speaking for our group when the chaperones were absent. That summer showed me that not only was I able to perform well as a public diplomat, but I was also able to exhibit leadership skills abroad. I firmly believe it was this particular summer that was the final straw that manifested an interest in public service on a global scale.