Law, Public Service & Cherry Blossoms: Final Thoughts on D.C.

Brandon Wong

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.

Well, here we are. It’s now April 2015, the final month that I’m in our nation’s capital. Rather than recount everything that has happened to me in the past few weeks since my last post, I’d like to reflect on my time here and things that I’ve learned. But first, an obligatory aside about the cherry blossoms.

For the folks at home, Washington, D.C. isn’t just known for scandal, polarization, and drivers that honk their horns as if it were a necessary bodily function. One of the more positive aspects of D.C. is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. If you’re really interested, you can learn more here. In a nutshell: our friend and ally Japan gave us a gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees over one hundred years ago to celebrate our relationship. Every year around this time (for only about two weeks at that!), the trees bare their beautiful pink blossoms and mark the arrival of springtime. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to D.C. annually to take part in the festivities and take selfies with the cherry blossom trees. I’m only half joking about that last part. Fun fact: picking the blossoms of the tree is illegal, so don’t even think about it!

Cherry Blossom Trees by the waterfront. If you squint, you’ll see thousands of tourists.

Cherry Blossom Trees by the waterfront. If you squint, you’ll see thousands of tourists.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Fifty Shades of DC

Summer Dong BlogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Summer Dong

The prolonged winter in DC is over. This past week, the temperature has consistently been around 60F. And the once chilly and aloof DC starts to strike people with its cuteness by offering thousands of cherry blossoms and magnolias. Yesterday, when I went to work in the morning, these cuties were greeting me in front of UCDC Center:

cherry blossoms

Taken in front of Department of the Treasury

Taken in front of Department of the Treasury

Continue reading

New Adventures, Familiar Faces

Brandon Wong

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.

I last left off with my plans for attending CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Maryland. Boy, was that fun! Out of the 4 days it was around (Wednesday-Saturday), I was present for 3 of them. On Thursday, I got to meet my favorite Senator and presidential hopeful, Rand Paul. Senator Paul holds a special place in my heart because I think he’s trying to take the Republican Party in a slightly different direction, which is what needs to happen if the Grand Old Party ever wants to take back the White House. On Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a reception hosted by James O’Keefe, the conservative film documentarian. For those unfamiliar with Mr. O’Keefe, he is the young man that ventured across the U.S.-Mexico border dressed as Osama bin Laden to bring greater attention to the security of the border. Finally, I spent Saturday volunteering for RAND PAC (Senator Paul’s Political Action Committee) and acquainting myself with some of the exhibitions. One booth was hosting an organization called Right on Crime, a part of the Texas Public Policy Institute that seeks to formulate policies that address the growing problem of criminal justice from a conservative perspective. I’m incredibly interested in the conservative reform movement, so it was great to hear from some of the folks who are out on the front lines getting their voices (and policies) heard by politicians. Overall, I’m happy I was able to attend; CPAC was an excellent experience for a young conservative like myself! Continue reading

User Guide to the Library of Congress

Summer Dong BlogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Summer Dong

The Library of Congress was one of the biggest incentives behind my UCDC application. As my work at the Wilson Center is picking up, I have become a frequent patron of the LOC. A good thing about working in a think tank is the flexibility of your schedule. Unlike my friends who work, say, at the White House or at some Congressional offices, I usually don’t have to be at work from 9 to 5. As a research assistant, my job is mainly to, well, do research. So as long as I finish my work on time and keep my boss happy, I can read books, write memos and interview people from anywhere, usually a nearby library or a cafe. And sometimes, when the task gets tricky, a visit to the LOC is a must-do. Continue reading

Somber Past, Bright Future

Brandon Wong

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.

The past few weeks have been a little rough. I’ve been trying to shake off a persisting cold, to little avail. On top of that, applying for jobs takes up a great deal of my time, in addition to scholarly pursuits here at the UC Center. Finally, I made an obligatory excursion to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum a few weeks ago. I say “obligatory,” because I believe wholeheartedly that everyone must eventually witness the tragedies of the Holocaust to honor the living and the dead. Reading Elie Weisel’s Night in high school was an emotionally exhausting endeavor, affecting me in a way few books have. However, even books about the Holocaust don’t fully capture the human suffering and cruelty; going to the Museum made that clear to me. One thing about the Museum that really stuck with me was the boxcar they had on display for museum goers to walk through. Of course, eventual victims of the death camps were transported by train in box cars. They were often packed to the brim, allowing very little freedom of movement. Walking through the boxcar sent a chill down my spine and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Though I was technically alone in the sense that no one was in or around the boxcar with me, I did not feel truly alone. I doubt I’ll ever forget that. Continue reading

Going Primitive in D.C.

Summer Dong BlogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Summer Dong

I never realized how much I had been enslaved to my cell phone until three weeks ago. I went skiing in Maryland— Yes, they do have a couple of ski resorts around D.C., nothing like Lake Tahoe, though — with three friends from UCDC, and accidentally gave my cell phone a mountain funeral. Since then, I have been living in a constant state of uncertainty. “Where is the nearest post office again? I have to mail some postcards to my friends in Berkeley. And, what are their addresses anyway? Gosh, I really should have written them down.” “It’s now 4 minutes past my appointment time with my boss, what if there was something coming up and he had to ditch me?” “Wait, at which Metro stop should I make my transfer again?” Without a cell phone, my life is just full of those “Gotcha” moments. I’ve always thought that, compared to all my “techy” friends in the Bay Area, I was pretty indifferent to digital stuff. Now I have to say, a smart phone is something that, once you get used to it, there is just no way back.

Summer with her friends Ari (left, from University of Sydney), Tom (from UCLA), and Joe (front, from Carnegie Mellon University)

Summer with her friends Ari (left, from University of Sydney), Tom (from UCLA), and Joe (front, from Carnegie Mellon University)

Continue reading

Learning about Learning: Education Policy and Washington, D.C.

Brandon Wong

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.

It’s 1P.M. on January 4th. I walk off my connecting flight from Detroit, Michigan (where it was a harsh 8 degrees) to the Dulles Airport terminals. Despite not having slept for 30 hours, I’m excited and anxious. Three hours later, I finally arrive at the U.C. Washington Center. After unpacking all of my belongings, I think to myself, “Now what?” Little did I know then that my life would pick up the pace in such a short time.

SNOW!

SNOW!

Continue reading