Sunday gave the delegation our first full day off in D.C. After a few days of being in the city and seeing the sights it had to offer, we all had plans sorted for the day by breakfast time. Pleasantly surprised by the weather D.C. put on for us, the delegation split ways. Many headed to the various Smithsonian Museums on offer – The Air and Space Museum, The American History Museum, The National Museum of the American Indian, The National Gallery of Art, and one delegate and co-director were lucky enough to get entry into the new and renowned National Museum of African American History and Culture. Another delegate went to the National Zoo, some to the Library of Congress and National Archives, and others to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Every museum under the Smithsonian Institute is free, and this is one of the best things about being in D.C. The delegation, along with everyone else who passed through a museum door that day, came back moved by history, or knowing something they didn’t before. For example, the designer of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress was African American; many Native Americans joined every war the US participated in in the 20th century and specific languages of theirs were used as code to send messages; and historically, women were not taken seriously as artists so could only be painters by profession as portrait artists for wealthy members of society. Education is available on almost every corner of D.C., and it instills a desire in one to leave the city with more understanding of the world than what they came with. If I can speak for the delegation, I would say this has occurred during our time here. After the day of Museum sights, flea market shopping, and questionable polo shirt purchases, the delegation began to gather their things together as time had crept up, leaving only one and a half days left in the Capital.
Monday morning welcomed the delegation to crisp winds and a chance encounter/15 seconds of fame for one delegate with a Canadian news reporter outside the White House on our way to the World Bank to meet with Peter Kyle, former lead counsel. This meeting with Peter Kyle at the World Bank was highly anticipated, and not just because one co-director had repeatedly stated the World Bank cafeteria was going to be her highlight of the trip.
The meeting with Peter Kyle did not disappoint. The delegation had a very informative discussion with him regarding his life and his incredible career both in New Zealand and overseas with the Asian Development Bank and then with the World Bank. Even for those on the delegation who were not as clued up on international economics as others, Peter’s ability to tell stories and explain challenges and successes he had through his career came through clearly.
One of the most notable experiences Peter shared with the group was when he talked of his time travelling to Eastern Europe after the fall of the USSR to move them from a communist led economy to a market order. He was on the team that was tasked to create Russia’s private sector and assist with foreign investment and trade. Peter also offered some advice based on his own personal experiences, and encouraged the delegation to be involved in everything attainable to us in this day and age, and not to be a spectator of life.
After the meeting, Peter led the delegation on a small tour of some of the offices and impressive board rooms the World Bank offered, before leading us down to the eagerly anticipated cafeteria. To say the delegation was overwhelmed would be an understatement. The cafeteria offered very affordable food from a range of countries from Malaysia to Latin America. On a glance at the room amidst the bustling World Bank members various delegates could be seen in situations just as hilarious as the next. Some couldn’t decide what to eat and therefore ended up walking in circles around the room, some found themselves too caught up in the bustle and panic-joined a cue, and some were so overcome with choice they simply stood in the room, mouth agape at all that was on offer in front of them. When we all sat down to eat, no one was disappointed with their choice, and we all left the World Bank feeling satisfied in the knowledge we had gained and the food we had devoured.
We next travelled to Georgetown where the delegation spread out over the stores, some seeking out coffee and others posting postcards at the oldest Post Office in America. We then made our way to the picturesque Georgetown University, with one delegate describing it as an American Hogwarts. The campus and its buildings left many delegates wishing they could transfer over for a semester or two. We met at the Intercultural Center where Dr Alan Tidwell was waiting to greet us in an easy to spot New Zealand Aotearoa Cap he sported just for us.
Dr Alan Tidwell is the director of the Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies Center in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. The Center is one of two universities in America to offer an undergraduate certificate in New Zealand studies. Dr Tidwell was incredibly generous not only with his time and his answers that he gave to our questions but also with the cookies he left out for us. It was invaluable to talk to Dr Tidwell who offered us the chance to see New Zealand taught from an outside perspective. Dr Tidwell clearly knew our country well and held it in high regard, speaking of the role he saw New Zealand hold in the international arena and what he hoped students of his would come away with after taking the course. It was especially interesting to speak on where he believed bilateral relations between New Zealand and America were heading as America moves into a new administration.
That night, our last night in D.C., half the delegation set out to the Verizon Center to watch the local basketball team the Washington D.C. Wizards beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. We were treated to the full live American sporting experience – live hand-on-heart national anthem singers, organ countdown sounds, half time shows and t-shirt tosses into the crowd. The rest of the delegation remained back at the hostel, packing their bags ready to take on our last day in Washington D.C.
The US Leadership Tour is a month long study tour across the United States. The 14 delegates and two co-directors will be meeting with NZ and US diplomats, NGOs, think tanks, companies and academic institutions, and representing NZ at the 63rd Annual Session of the Harvard National Model United Nations. Read more…