Washington, D.C.- For three days, I travelled with 15 Catholic Memorial students to the nation’s capital as a part of CM’s Blessed Edmund Rice Solidarity Initiative (BERSI). There, we reflected on themes concerning the sanctity of life and human dignity while visiting some of the most famous memorials and monuments in the country. By the time I returned home, the trip had transformed my limited understanding of advocacy in a way I never imagined.
After an early breakfast Thursday morning, we left school to board the D.C. Metro and travel to the National Mall. There, we visited the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol Building. Inside the Capitol, we viewed historical government rooms, statues, and paintings. Next, we walked to the Vietnam, World War II, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials. To me, this was the most eye-opening part of the trip. The list of over 58,000 men and women who died in the Vietnam War protecting the United States astounded me, especially the cards and flowers left in remembrance of lost loved ones.
On Thursday, we rode to the Mall again, but for a different reason: The March for Life. More than 250,000 people packed into the D.C. streets advocating against abortion in support of the “pro-life” movement. Before the trip, my idea of advocacy meant starting a petition for a bill or wearing a t-shirt in support of a cause. After participating in the march, I realized that advocacy means much more.
Advocacy means gathering in mass numbers and demanding change. It means coming together as a group as small as a school, or as big as a country, and promoting a cause that you think is right.
On our last day in the capital, we went to the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery. The breathtaking exhibits at the Holocaust Museum demonstrated how the Nazis failed to consider human dignity and the sanctity of life during the 1940s.
On the contrary, the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery showed the utmost respect to those who have not returned from war. These men and women gave their lives for our freedom and did not return home while on duty. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded no matter the weather, represents the human dignity of those soldiers.
The BERSI D.C. trip not only changed my understanding of advocacy, but my idea of brotherhood. Before, I was only in the classroom, on the court, or on the stage with my brothers. While walking the streets, ridign the subway, and visiting national monuments and memorials, my bond with my classmates grew stronger. We reflected on the day’s activities every night, and my views on human dignity and sanctity of life were challenged.
I saw the varied opinions of not just CM students and faculty, but the opinions of those around the world.
Overall, my first BERSI trip to Washington, D.C. was one I will hold on to forever because of my strengthened bonds, challenged views, and unforgettable experiences.