From March 3-6, 2016, Fulbrighters took to the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to participate in the 2016 Enrichment Seminar, “Democracy in Action: U.S. Politics and Elections.” Joining the more than 130 students over the course of local cultural site visits, community service activities, and a presidential election simulation workshop included accomplished political commentators, strategists, and academics.
Held at the Independence Visitor’s Center, the opening dinner welcomed CNN’s Michael A. Smerconish to deliver a phenomenal keynote address, “Stuck in the Middle with You: How Did We Get Where We Are (Politically) and What Will It Take to Get Out.” Smerconish, who is the author of two New York Times’ best sellers, analyzed the current fraught U.S. political climate heading into the 2016 general election in November, and even offered an apt comparison between the U.S. two-party system, voter preferences, and citizens’ proclivity to shop at specific grocery stores based on location.
Veteran Democratic political strategist and author Donna Brazile gave a lively and passionate introduction and commented on the heated general primary races taking place across the nation. Brazile was the first African American to direct a major presidential campaign, acting as campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, and currently serves as Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Throughout the seminar, Fulbrighters participated in and attended panel discussions and workshops which provided deep insights into U.S. elections from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. Bill Rosenberg, a professor at Drexel University served as the Philadelphia Seminar Consultant and worked with the Fulbrighters throughout the 4-day seminar.
In an exciting presidential election simulation, Fulbrighters were assigned as delegates to different states and then were persuaded by candidates, their fellow students, to try and vote for them. In the end, three Fulbrighters were victorious!
Davis Ureña, Panama – President
Philipp Teriete, Germany – VP
Nikole Pellerano, Dominican Republic – Chief of Staff
Philadelphia, as the beating political heart of the American Revolution, also played the ideal host for cultural site visits during an election year. Fulbrighters took advantage of geography and went on a Historic Philadelphia Walking Tour, enjoying numerous sites in the Independence National Historical Park area, including the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, and Independence Hall – home of the room where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
Fulbrighters focused on giving back to the community, too, and volunteered time at various organizations across the city, including Cradles to Crayons – a non-profit that provides homeless and low-income children with the essentials they require to thrive, like school supplies and proper clothing. Other visited sites included the Free Library of Philadelphia and Cancer Support Community Greater Philadelphia.
Shreya Singh, a Foreign Fulbright student from India who is currently completing her M.A. in Arts Management at Columbia College in Chicago offered some insight on her experience during the 2016 Philadelphia Enrichment Seminar.
Having already attended a gateway program in Nevada, I was prepared for a packed three-day schedule in Philadelphia. Needless to the say, those three days matched everyone’s expectations. There was one element that was different and that was the mood and the mindset of the participants. The gateway program was held over our first few days in the US. The conversations were focused more on the field and university we were going to, our expectations, our first impressions of the US and so on. In the enrichment seminar, the conversations were from a much deeper level. I found that people were different. The hype of a masters had settled and the conversations were more about coping with life, relationships, separation, homesickness, perseverance, conviction, insecurities, but most of all, inspiration. I noticed that some of my Indian counterparts had changed and had become more gregarious. Personally, I enjoyed the depth of conversation, because there comes a point in life where small talk can only go so far at a dinner — Breaking those barriers and talking about things that truly matter was an enriching and self-reflective experience.
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