Thursday, September 6, 2012

Freedom Rising, My Semester in DC

By Matt Hall

I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I had my suit neatly pressed, new dress shirt just ironed, and new tie ready to be worn. I got up early, prepared, and prayed for a good first day. And I will never forget that morning, when I walked and watched the sunrise over the beautiful United States Capitol Building as a Congressional Intern. I will never be able again to feel that excitement, nervousness, and fulfillment again. I had never seen something so beautiful as that sunrise, and never experienced something so powerful.

I got there because of a stray email that my professor and mentor Dr. Sandra Via sent out to the political science students. It was an email from the Fund for American Studies, and it was about a student program from DC. The Capital Semester program took students from all over the word and let them come live, work, and intern in DC. I wanted to apply so badly, wanting to seek adventure in my life. I come from Cana, Virginia, a small town of less than 1300 people. So DC was this grand adventure that I had only seen once in my life, on a 10th grade band trip. To go and work there would be a dream fulfilled, and a prayer answered. I always have wanted to be a public servant, and DC is the place to find that dream.

So I applied, got help from Dr. Via and the State Senator I was interning for, Bill Stanley wrote me a recommendation. I applied, and waited for about five weeks for the news to come. I remember it was a beautiful Monday in October when I got the email. It was a gorgeous day, and I was getting ready to go play flag football with my fraternity, Mu Sigma Chi. I saw the email, and saw the first line said:
“Congratulations!” I think I screamed so loud that all of Lakeside heard me. With tears of joy, I called my mom and dad. I even cried on the way to play, but as soon as I told my fraternity brothers, I had to get over it. We had to beat Theta Chi Epsilon.
Many preparations were made. Clothes were bought, schedule prepared, things got put together. I felt like an old man at Christmas, because my entire family got me ties. I prepared for the change in my life, and prayed for the best.

I’ll never forget the first morning that I moved to town. I arrived at my dorm, an old apartment house three blocks from the US Capitol Building. I met roommates: one from Chicago, one from Philadelphia, and one from San Diego. I felt like such a fish out of water. Capitol Semester Spring 2012 had six of seven continents represented, everywhere from Egypt to El Salvador. They talked about spending there summers in California or their semester in France. The closest I had ever been to France was the World Showcase at Epcot, so I tried to keep up. But I had the education from Ferrum, the prayers from many, and a can do attitude. Those three things took me a long way this year.

That semester we got to live the life of Washingtonians. Whether it be the 3 hour lecture at the Federal Reserve where we almost all fell asleep, or the State Department Lecture on China and the Global Economy (where I was fascinated at people 10 times smarter than me), we were allowed to broaden our horizons. We toured the Pentagon, Capital Building, and White House. We attended the Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the most hotly contested events during the GOP primaries (and where Mitt Romney’s Secret Service SUV almost ran me over!). And lastly, we got to live and work in DC, which was a great experience, Congressman Morgan Griffith’s office treated me like family. I learned so much from them, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Lastly, I’ll never forget the last sunrise in DC either. I was wearing that same suit, and that same tie, to our graduation on Capitol Hill that morning. I remember getting up that much earlier just to go see the sunrise. I prayed that one day I would be back to work again, because it was the best time of my life. I watched the sun rise in front of the “Lady Freedom” statue. And then I remembered what she stood for. You see, “Lady Freedom” does not face the front of the Capitol Building. She faces the back of the Capitol, so that the sun will never set on freedom. I was blessed to work in Washington, I could have never made it without Ferrum College friends, family, and brothers, and I will do everything in my power as a public servant to never let the sun set on freedom.

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