We began September 11th by moving from our Airbnb in Benning Road to Northern Virginia where we were honoured to stay at the historic home of former diplomat, Jack Gosnell. In honour of our British roots we were greeted with a wide selection of tea!
After introductions and tea, we were given an in-depth Foreign Policy seminar by Jack who shared key insights from his experiences as a diplomat focussing on his time in Russia, China and South Korea. We were fascinated to hear his take on current Foreign Policy challenges and their historical background. We were joined by Jack’s friend Brian who has worked as an advisor in the White House and shared with us brilliant observations, discussing how climate change, food/water, migration and conflict are national security concerns.
We discussed the economic and political stability of different countries. Jack spoke about the fundamental challenges facing America’s relationships with China and Russia and how these relationships have evolved over the years. He pointed out the phenomenal overlaps between China and Russia – how their whole top-down political concept is the same but they just have different cultures. He also noted how the wealth inequality in both countries is incredible.
Jack said the key to diplomacy is to anticipate what the other guy wants, observing US Foreign Policy has often been guided by Teddy Roosevelt’s advice; ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick.’
In the afternoon we headed over to the Democratic Party of Virginia’s office in Alexandria where we had the pleasure of meeting with Hillary For America organizer Meredith Kurz to discuss the challenges Hillary and the Democrats face at a grassroots level.
Meredith introduced us to the Democrats revolutionary campaign app miniVAN. The app enables volunteers to do paperless campaigning having all the info you would need to canvass voters- voter ID, the ability to input data, maps and directions. It even allows you to RSVP to events! We pointed out the Labour Party is set to introduce a similar campaign app which we hoped would be as efficient.
We learnt how in 2008, Democrats targeted areas they could win in Northern Virginia to counteract Republican votes in the southern part of the state which enabled the party to turn the state blue.
Meredith echoed staff at the Human Rights Campaign saying Trump’s incoherence makes him hard to pin down on issues especially on Reproductive Rights which had been a central issue in the 2012 election cycle. She also pointed out Trump has an ever shifting target. Meredith said many people don’t understand what voting for Trump means and it’s hard to convince voters that this is how your life would be impacted by a Trump presidency.
We discussed policy issues such as Black Lives Matter and gun control. Meredith said Black Lives Matter had acted as a catalyst for change and fed into Democratic platform. She said it’s hard to find common ground on gun control even amongst Democrats. We also talked about the fact millennial are Generation Screwed and the idea of a positive future is lost on our generation.
We shared our dismay that enthusiasm about Hillary being the first female president is down out by criticism of her. We noted the Obama campaign was more of a social movement, an all-inspiring call to change the world, than a campaign whereas Hillary’s is more of a traditional campaign.
Later, we visited the Pentagon 9/11 memorial to pay our respect to all those who had lost their lives in the attack. Being at the Pentagon on the 15th anniversary of that horrific day was a very moving and emotional experience for us all.