A Mannkal Scholarship is a promise that for the next several weeks you will be incapable of feeling boredom. This week has certainly been no exception, packed with activities every waking hour.
It all started with a delightful evening spent volunteering at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute Confederation Dinner. While a place at the function normally retails for $150, as volunteers we freely enjoyed the in-depth discussions about how far Canada has come in its 150 years since confederation.
This included the challenges and opportunities the nation will face in the future, and an enthusiastic John A. Macdonald impersonator who acted quite appalled when he was unable to check-in under the first Prime Minister’s name.
The following morning we had a brisk 4.30am wake-up so that we could begin our ten hour road trip down to Washington DC for the International Students for Liberty Conference. While not on our official Mannkal itinerary, some friends we made from the local campus Students for Liberty group were especially keen to have us tag along.
The conference was a spectacular affair, with everything from video messages from Rand Paul to libertarian rap performances. Choosing between the numerous breakout session talks was especially difficult when topics like freedom of speech on campus, whether libertarians should support a Universal Basic Income, and live skype streams with a renowned refugee writer affected by Trump’s recent travel bans were all being held concurrently.
After another ten hours’ worth of political banter, snacking and sleeping, we arrived back in Ottawa just in time for a bit of shut eye before we needed to arise again for the enrichment program Mannkal had planned for us this week. This program brought all the Canadian scholars together for three days of jam-packed activities intended to improve our understanding of Australia-Canada relations.
We spent an entire day chatting with Mannkal board director, and incredibly knowledgeable individual, Andrew Pickford. He challenged us with thought provoking interrogations about why we thought certain policies were good or bad, explained how the geopolitical landscape of Canada had evolved over time, and how classical liberal ideas had transformed with it.
The following days were consumed with a visit to the High Commission of Australia, dining with an MP at parliamentary restaurant, an intimate meeting with a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and many more stimulating experiences.
One activity I would single out as especially rewarding was watching Andrew present to a group of economists and analysts from the Finance Department about China’s Grand Energy Strategy, where I felt we witnessed the process moving ideas from think-tanks into broader circulation in a practical manner.
My last day in Ottawa was no chilled affair, I attended both Atlas Network Training and Manning Centre Training, focused around how to look your best and tackle difficult questions in TV, radio and print interviews as well as how best to promote the personal brand of a politician.
Needless to say – I am exhausted. However, tomorrow morning I will be flying back to sunny Perth with a plethora of new knowledge, skills and life long friends, more than I could have ever imagined gaining from my time here in Canada.
I can unashamedly say that Mannkal are in the business of changing lives, and I would sincerely like to thank Ron Manners, the Mannkal team and the Institute for Liberal Studies for deciding to change mine.