What a week.
What an absolutely amazing, tiring, busy, educational, fulfilling, rewarding, roller coaster of a week! Not only have the events of the week left me breathless from their pace, they have left me speechless.
On Monday, a friend of John’s, Tremayne, took us for a tour of Congress. He is the special assistant to a member of Congress – the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, no less. His employment garners him access to large parts of the Congress that are not generally available to the public. He was most generous with this access, most memorably taking us on the floor of the House of Representatives, and to the Speaker’s balcony. The Speaker’s balcony offers an unparalleled view of the city; it is no wonder that the Pope chose to give his address from this location.
On the speakers balcony of Congress.
The next day, I joined fellow Mannkal scholars Ramin and Jordan, and ventured out to further explore the city. We visited both the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
At the Museum of Natural History.
Washington DC however, was not to be the only capital city I visited during the week. To finalise the work we had done at the Manning Conference, John and I travelled up to Ottawa for the Manning Conference. It was a fantastic conference, without weather to match. The first rain I have seen in nearly 9 months fell while I was in Ottawa, transforming the 40cm of snow already present into slush (sometimes of a similar depth as the snow, as my right leg found out. Twice.). The conference itself however was hugely rewarding, incredibly inspiring, and offered networking opportunities aplenty. There were speakers on a variety of topics, from how best to utilise Facebook’s new algorithms for effective political posting to the importance of political training. There were also panels of discussion on topics including cannabis, provincial politics, and Canada’s voting system. Described as ‘Woodstock for conservatives’, the Manning Conference is a Mecca for Canadian conservatives and many politicians – including the leaders of all Federal and provincial right wing parties – were present. I was also able to meet in person the students who I helped select for travel sponsorship, and catch up for a final time with the staff of the Manning Centre.
With Morton Blackwell, conservative activist and member of the Executive Committee of the RNC.
One of the standout pieces of wisdom I gleaned from the Manning Conference came from Morton Blackwell. He (rightly in my opinion) points out that to win the political argument, it is not sufficient to simply be correct. In his words those who win the political argument have, “the best trained political activists, with the best grasp of technology.” His speech has inspired me to become more involved in the conservative political movement. Australia has no equivalent to the Manning Conference. There is no reason this cannot be remedied.
Our time in Ottawa also allowed us to visit the Canadian Federal Parliament, and we were lucky enough to be allowed onto the floor of the Canadian Senate, as well as to view a session of ‘Question Period’ in their House of Representatives. The bi-lingual parliament was an experience in itself, with MP’s wearing headphones for translators to speak into.
At the Canadian Federal Parliament.
Finally, upon return to Washington, it was time for the International Students for Liberty Conference. I listened to speeches on a number of topics, including immigration and national borders. Although these were engaging and informative, the speakers at the Manning Conference were much more to my tastes, with a lot of the ISFLC exhibitors and speakers falling on the left side of libertarianism. This was no better highlighted by one of they keynote guests, the band Pussy Riot, wearing Bernie Sanders shirts for their visit. The evening exhibitions were quite interesting however, with all exhibitors gathered together in one smaller area. A visit by Presidential candidate Vermin Supreme added to the buzz.
The conference also offered a great opportunity to catch up with all the other scholars one final time, and spending my birthday in two different countries was an event which I am unlikely to repeat.
At the ISFL Conference.
Alas, I have now parted ways with all the other scholars, as I slowly navigate my way to New York to start the long journey home. I had once again grown used to being surrounded by Australian accents, and I will miss our little Australian family. Still, there is no reason to be morose. The coming week offers me a final opportunity to explore America, to forge relations with its citizenry, and to make memories I will hold dear for the remainder of my life. New York City is a testament to what man can do when he is left to flourish, and I look forward to making the most of everything it has to offer. Whether this is managing to get in some TLC, exploring the various landmarks and monuments, or simply allowing a moment to lay back and take it all in, one thing I am certain of. I won’t be getting much sleep this coming week.
I am immensely thankful for the opportunity Mannkal has afforded me, the true scope of which has not become obvious until now. This has been a life-changing experience, and I will forever be grateful to those who made it possible.