Three weeks ago, a group of Blair buccaneers, accompanied by Mr. Beck, went down to D.C. to attend the Washington Ideas Forum. We had the chance to hear from a number of influential politicians, writers and entrepreneurs. Some memorable speakers included Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan; John Kerry, the Secretary of State; John Hanke, the inventor of Pokemon Go; and Vanita Gupta from the Department of Justice. It was a mind-blowing experience to hear from leaders in various fields. The only high school students in an audience full of journalists and other professionals, we even sat through an award lunch discussion called “What the Kids Are Thinking” and witnessed a remarkable debate on how Millennials view politics today.
Here are some reflections from those who went on the trip:
Linda Tong ’19
Although I was thrilled to hear from the director of the CIA, several current and former members of the Cabinet, and numerous other dignitaries, my favorite speaker was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the book Americanah. She sees herself as “a storyteller [whose job] is to humanize,” using literature as a conduit for expressing her passion for civil rights and advocacy. During the discussion, she grappled with difficult topics like racial justice and gender inequality. She also said, “Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive,” and that women should have the choice to be as feminine as they like and still be taken seriously. Listening to her speak was incredibly powerful.
Savanna Doelfel ’18
Two of my favorite speakers from the Washington Ideas Forum were Jeffrey Bluestone, the CEO and president of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and William Dalton, the CEO of M2Gen, Moffitt Cancer Center. They discussed the recent advancements in immunotherapy, particularly how it can be combined with other therapies like radiation and chemotherapy. Furthermore, both Bluestone and Dalton explained the need for researchers to openly share data with others in order for innovators to make discoveries related to cancer as quickly as possible. Their discussion on medical research involved talks about Zika and Ebola by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with the Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Cleary Waldo ’19
The Ideas Forum was truly a life-changing experience and I was honored to be in the presence of so many influential politicians, scientists, authors, and journalists. From Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to Director of the CIA John Brennan, the forum welcomed people of all professions to the stage to be interviewed by top-notch interviewers such as Robert Siegel of NPR. With only 20 minutes spent on each interview, the setup of the forum kept the audience constantly engaged and focused on what each interviewee was talking about. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to attend this event and I think I will be able to apply much of what I heard there in my classes.
Anh Nguyen ’18
It was a very enjoyable experience.My favorite part of the conference was attending the discussion lunch, entitled “What are the Kids Thinking.” The panel featured people from Funny or Die, Refinery29, and more, and it was very interesting to see discussions about the interests and thoughts of our generation. It was an unforgettable experience.
Amanda Goldsmith ’18
Going to the Washington Ideas Forum was such a great opportunity! I had so much fun hearing what everyone had to say! My favorites were Director Anthony Fauci and Director Anna Schuchat from the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control. Fauci and Schuchat talked a lot about the Zika virus and how it spreads, who needs to be wary of it, and how long it will be until a vaccine is ready (they estimate 1 to 2 years). They also talked about what needs to happen before we can start eradicating the Aedes Aegypti mosquito from the U.S., which will lower the number of cases of Zika a great deal. Overall, the Washington Ideas Forum was a very enlightening experience and I am so glad I decided to go!
Grace Miller ’18
The diversity of speakers represented a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints from Republicans to Democrats, authors to CEOs, scientists to lawyers. The Ideas Forum helped me to understand the world better through the eyes of others. Additionally, the reporters who interviewed the speakers asked difficult questions that challenged both the speaker and the audience and ultimately led me to question some of my own values. I would recommend this trip to anyone who wishes to gain a broader understanding of current events or wants to be inspired to think differently.
Huong Nguyen ’18
Washington, D.C. was great! There were so many great speakers, from entrepreneurs to doctors, from governors to writers. Secretary of State John Kerry was there! He talked about the situation with the Saudi Arabian government, the upcoming election, and his thoughts on Vietnam. I would definitely recommend this conference to other Blair students.
(Copyright Chriss Liu & Contributing Students 2016)