Next in the NWCCI series of reflections from the trip to Washington DC is an essay by Cyrille Bally. Cyrille is an NWCCI student studying Childhood Education and Development at Pierce College. He is from Côte d’Ivoire and shares his thoughts and initial impressions about his very first trip to Washington, DC, from learning about the history of the ancient Mayans, to the Pentagon, to standing before the unfinished memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
My trip to Washington DC was one of the most memorable moments spent in the USA. I especially learned a lot from the museums and places we visited, which have a special importance to American culture. The Library of Congress, the Capitol, the Pentagon, the Newseum and the Air and Space Museum are some of the places that most captivated my attention.
First of all, I found the Library of Congress fabulous. I was fascinated by the magnificence of its architecture while listening to the tour guide tell us a lot of information about America’s history. The building was full of history, and each statue and graph has a specific meaning related to US history. It is currently still a center of research and possesses a large range of books about any topic that you could imagine. While there, I explored the Early Americas through some rare maps, documents and paintings in the Jay I. Kislak collection. The collection elucidates the fact that there was life and culture before Christopher Columbus, who was said to be the first man to discover the Americas. I also learned that the richest source of pre-Columbian historical information comes from the ancient Maya, who developed the most sophisticated writing system in Americas. I was very impressed!
In my country, the Ivory Coast, only 30% of the culture and the history are written in books and the other 70% are shared orally. After being in the Library of Congress, I realized how well the US has succeeded in keeping its entire culture and even other countries’ culture in their books, it made me think about all we could do to keep our culture forever.
Another aspect that gave me a better appreciation for the USA, was the Air and Space Museum. Exploring this place was very fun for me. I learned about aviation history: from the Wright brothers all the way to the last state-of-the-art aircraft. Honestly, aviation is not one of my areas of interest. However, I was so amazed by how huge and informative this place was, that I changed my perspective about aviation. Indeed, this museum even possesses some aircraft simulators and I even had the chance to be a pilot for a moment!
This interesting and peculiar tour just confirmed my opinion about the extreme curiosity and open minded spirit of Americans.
Later on, I visited the Newseum, and all I could think while inspecting up and down, right and left, surrounding this place, was freedom. I personally admired the attitude of Americans toward freedom, particularly freedom of speech; I understood that that was one of the advantages of this nation over the others. It is one of those few nations where you are allowed to speak out and be taken into account. And I really appreciate this aspect about the US, since it sets a good example for other countries. Therefore, I believe that the Newseum is a place that represents the importance of freedom, freedom of speech.
I was also able to visit the Department of Defense’s Pentagon building. It was for me, a dream comes true. Many times I had seen it in pictures and for the very first time I was able to see it in real life. I enjoyed visiting the Pentagon because it is a huge building, and it gathers a lot of people from different walks of life. Similarly in my country, we do have a lot of office buildings, but they are not as tremendous as the Pentagon is, not even close.
During our trip we explored many monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and many others. Each of those monuments represents a specific moment in the history of the USA. Among all these monuments, the Martin Luther King Memorial was my favorite, it represents the sufferings and efforts that black Americans have endured to have the same rights as white Americans. It also reminds us of the life of one of the most charismatic and courageous leaders ever, Martin Luther King, and the powerful speech that he delivered nearby, entitled “I Have a Dream”. Another reason why I liked this monument is that as an African, I definitely find myself and my own history somehow in these black Americans. These monuments symbolized for me a powerful nation, the US.
Overall, I have hope that my country and many other countries will take the US’s fight as an example in order to rise as well. The US has been through the same darkness as many other countries. It has struggled, and never takes anything for granted. I think that if the US can do it, my country will undoubtedly be able to, also.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.