National Archives rotunda in Washington, DC

John Larsen

American Politics

February 13, 2018 | Although New York City claims the title for “The City that Never Sleeps,” I would argue that Washington, D.C. is “The City that Never Remains Silent.” The District is alive with conversation, and any passersby can overhear a conversation over simple preferences to a lively debate over the political issues frequently depicted in The Washington Post. Our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is an incubator for problem-solving; the place where passionate discussion centers around the nuanced and multifaceted problems facing the United States today.

It is for that reason I decided to spend the second half of my gap year in the American University Gap Program. The AU Gap Program recognizes the importance of immersing its students into the Washington D.C. culture by actively promoting internships within the city.

When I was first accepted to the AU Gap Program, I imagined I would actively participate in the Washington political arena by working on the Hill or a think tank. However, as I participated in the internship fair, I found myself innately pulled towards organizations that advanced these conversations by providing the facts that either party could interpret. I was specifically attracted to the National Archives and Records Administration, an organization whose museum I had visited numerous times during my visits to D.C. Following an application and interview, I accepted a position at the Boeing Learning Center at the National Archives.

I was inspired by the Education department’s initiative to promote lifelong learning by utilizing some of the Archives’ over 15 billion records. The National Archives is decidedly nonpartisan, and I enjoyed the idea that I could present facts and documents and all visitors to discern their perspectives. I believe the analysis of the past informs current decision making and shapes our future. This sentiment coincides with the Washington D.C. culture of conversation and stimulates curiosity in students of all ages.

In my past few weeks as an intern, I was granted numerous opportunities and responsibilities I could have never imagined. I recently met with the Archivist of the United States, and I was able to talk to him at length about his journey and his favorite pieces from the collection. I have also been able to assist with tours of the National Archives, and as well as develop a new activity for the Boeing Learning Center. In the coming weeks, I will help with the influx of visitors for the Emancipation Proclamation, volunteer at the National Archives Sleepover, and manage activities for Friendship Between Nations Day.

This internship has allowed me to not only develop professional skills beneficial to the workforce but also better understand my intellectual curiosities. I have been fortunate for the many opportunities I have been presented thus far in my AU Gap experience, and I look taking advantage of the many opportunities Washington D.C. has to offer.