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The Shining City Upon a Hill (Americas week 5)

On Saturday afternoon we touched down in Washington DC. Being the political nerds that most of us are, we were very excited to be in the heart of the political world. We arrived at The Leadership Institute (LI) in Arlington where we were greeted by nothing less than an American Flag and a painting depicting the signing of the Constitution.  We settled into our bunkbeds in our dormitories and got an early night for a busy week ahead. Sunday was spent exploring the iconic landmarks of DC such as the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the White House.

Our week at The Leadership Institute kicked off in true American style with black coffee and cream cheese bagels. Our first day involved an intensive media training workshop with Beverly Hallberg, expert media coach from the District Media Group where we were thrown behind the camera giving different styles of interviews on topics we were passionate about. It was cringe-worthy watching the playbacks of these videos in the studio, “I’d wish the earth would open up and swallow me!” Francine said.

Tuesday was spent in the classroom starting with a seminar by Abby Alger, Director of Digital Training. We worked through the elements of effective op-eds, press releases and media advisory. The rest of the day was spent with Stephen Rowe, Deputy Director of Digital Training learning about social media, social networking and video editing. Stephen lit the classroom up with his bright and positive energy which made the day go super-fast! With Stephen’s guidance and patience, we were all very impressed with the final product of our videos, “I might become a professional vlogger now”, Annie boasted. That night we all settled in around the TV to watch the State of the Union speech. It was pretty incredible to imagine that President Trump was just around the corner giving his address.

It was a bright and early start on Wednesday morning for the Wednesday Wake Up Breakfast. Jon Miller, White House Correspondent on BlazeTV captured us with his iconic presentation style and good humour about the Trump Administration. Our day formally began with Dr John Shosky, Professional Speech Writer and Speech Coach who had worked in the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations. We listened to all his tips and tricks on what makes a good speech and analysed some famous American speeches such as the Gettysburg Address. Over a Chick-Fil-A lunch kindly provided by Tiffany, we had to write our own speech on where we thought the future of the conservative movement was heading. It was an exciting, yet nerve-racking experience sharing our speech with the class. We wrapped up the day with dinner at “We, The Pizza” with our new American friends from the Leadership Institute.

Our final day at the Leadership Institute continued with John, where we fine-tuned our public speaking skills further and went through the fundamentals of speech writing. We were all very grateful for John sharing his abundant knowledge on public speaking, but we were most impressed with his wild and captivating stories about the Reagan administration, DC and his personal travels. Tiffany arranged a true American lunch for our last day which including buffalo wings, Ding Dongs and Twinkies! During our break, Kade and Damon also got the chance to be on The Leadership Institute’s podcast. We left The Leadership Institute feeling inspired, but also sad to leave our new friends.

There were tears and long hugs as Annie left us to face the treacherous 26-hour flight home on Friday. The rest of our day was spent visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the WW2 Memorial. It was moving to see these iconic monuments. That evening we had a change of pace and caught up with the interns at the Leadership Institute to get a taste of the DC nightlife! We have met some incredible people and learnt some amazing things in DC. We can’t wait to see what next week brings!

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