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Growing up in Catholic schools in the Midwest, conservative-leaning voices dominated much of my childhood into high school. Coming to Duke, liberal-leaning ideas became the most prominent in my day to day life. In both places, I felt surrounded by largely homogeneous ideologies. That is not to say that there weren’t different perspectives in both places, but the dissenters seemed few and often less outspoken than the majority opinions. Exposure to both environments influenced my perspective and thinking in unique and valuable ways that I remain grateful for. In DC, however, I have felt much more exposed to the confluence of political ideologies than ever before.

One of the most memorial experiences from my first year at Duke was a freshman seminar class called Virtuous Thinking in an Age of Political Polarization. The class forced us as students to examine many of our own political biases and to think critically about the polarizing rhetoric that has taken over much of our political landscape today and its detrimental impacts to productive, well-intentioned discussions. I feel like this summer has provided me with so many opportunities to put the thoughts and lessons from that class to practice through work and my interactions across the city.

My work environment has been extremely interesting for me to learn to navigate and I have really enjoyed the experience. To simplify it as much as I can, I am working for a think tank founded by several former libertarian individuals that are working on important issues such as climate change and immigration. Much of the organization is right-leaning and trying to engage other right-leaning voices in D.C. on issues typically more embraced by the left. Prior to this summer I had never really encountered the right-leaning perspective on climate change policy. To be completely honest, I didn’t really have any idea that there was such a thing. However, over the course of the summer I have come to appreciate their way of approaching the issue and it has showed me the detriment of tackling issues from one perspective. I am so grateful for my work experience because it has highlighted the importance of including many different voices, especially in the policy-making process.

Throughout the summer I have also had the opportunity to have many conversations and interactions with people of very different backgrounds than myself. I have met many people from different countries, different religious backgrounds, and different political ideologies. What I have found is that almost everyone I have talked to comes from a very genuine and well-intentioned place with their thoughts and opinions. I have felt myself come a long way in embracing these differences and realizing the value of trying to learn from the experiences and values that inform their perspectives. Engaging with so many different voices this summer has been a truly gratifying and enriching experience and I am grateful for my experience in D.C. for exposing me to such a rich variety of perspectives.