By: Abby Robb, Elmhurst College
As a Communication Studies and Political Science double major, I was most surprised by our site visit to The Cato Institute. I admit that I didn’t have high expectations for this visit once I found out it was a libertarian think tank. Before this visit, I mostly knew about libertarianism from Gary Johnson, and I found many of his stances to be a bit ridiculous. For example, I didn’t understand how someone could be in support of a woman’s right to choose, but not in enforcing that a man and woman have to be paid the same wage for the same job. I agree with the idea of limited government, but I thought that this version of libertarianism took it way too far.
However, when we got to the Cato Institute, I was pleasantly surprised with what the speaker had to say and how much of it resonated with me. The speaker explained the libertarian view as believing in one’s freedom to do what he or she wants as long as it doesn’t infringe on the freedom of another; this concept of libertarianism fuels my own political views. I could see that there was more factions to the Libertarian Party that I had never taken the time to learn about. This site visit showed me how much I actually identified with a party that I had previously thought was crazy.
As a college student, I believe the greatest academic benefit of this program has been how it has thrown me into the professional setting of the field I am studying. First, it has given me real-world experience that I can’t get from my Elmhurst College classrooms. I’ve had the chance to observe first-hand what it’s like to work in a wide range of government and political positions and to discuss issues with various experts that affect fields I may pursue. Second, it has posed challenges that I don’t face in a classroom setting and that make me a stronger political scientist.
At times, the whole experience can be overwhelming; there are many pieces to this seminar and we’ve had to make sense of it all while constantly presenting ourselves in a professional manner. That’s also the reality of the fields we will enter upon graduation and what it means to be part of them.
Third, and most importantly, I believe this seminar has built self-confidence that I believe will carry on with me throughout life. On the very first day of the seminar, I was able to ask a question of a documentary director, someone who is doing work that I would be interested in doing myself one day. I felt I was taken seriously and treated with respect. Students often are not taken as seriously as we wish, which can be discouraging and frustrating when working to pursue a career. However, I’ve believed that in this professional environment I was taken seriously; this gives me the confidence to see myself as a professional in a way I never have before.
I believe this seminar could potentially change my views about the various powers in Washington by showing me the different sides of the work that they do. I study these powers through textbooks and observe milestones of the work that they do through various news sources. The difference by being here: I’ve been able to observe their work first-hand and to get a better idea of what it’s like for these powers intermingling in the real world.
I may judge powers such as the media for being corrupt and bias, but taking the time here to learn from different perspectives will help me to understand the obstacles they face and how their work can be misconstrued. I expected my views of the president and Congress either altered or more solidified; and with our president-elect’s unpredictability, I expected to hear many predictions on how he will work with Congress over the next four years. Whether my views of where power really lies in Washington and whether it is used appropriately were altered, I know it has been helpful to hear from a variety of professionals as I continue to develop my own opinion.