Soul Food

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The beauty of D.C. is everywhere; It lies in the architecture of buildings, the parks, the numerous monuments, garden rotunda’s and even the breathtaking sunsets. With all this, it’s easy to forget that outside the hustle and bustle of the city there are communities in the out skirts that are continuously combating hardships. Which is why our program found it important that during our stay in the city, we find a way to give back to the community that is aiding us towards our goals. Two Saturday’s ago, we were given the opportunity to volunteer at the local Food Bank; Capital Area Food Bank or CAFB. This organization is the largest organization in the Washington Metro area working on helping people each year get access to healthy nutritious food. At home, I volunteer at a similar organization called “Feed My Starving Children”, although their focus is not local but international, they are fighting the same fight: Hunger.

Waking up extra early in the morning, we traveled to CAFB’s location to meet with former ASU-Capital Scholars alumni to be a part of the morning shift. We were given a brief introduction to the CAFB’s mission goal and a tour of their facility. During the tour, we were shown their “Mini Store”, it was a similar replica of a grocery store, but with fewer aisles. The purpose was to allow families to “shop” for food for a significant lower amount then at actual grocery stories. We were then asked to sort frozen packages of meats into similar groupings this way they could be stored and distributed to families accordingly. While at first we were confused on how to organize the foods, we soon got into a rhythm. The most rewarding part of the morning was knowing that our labor was going to help families not worry if they will have food on their table. It was also a reminder of how fortunate I am and to remember the importance of giving back. To acknowledge that while a neighbor may not be showing hardships, it doesn’t hurt to stop and ask if one can lend a hand.

On much lighter note, as mentioned, we volunteered side by side with former ASU alumni who had also been a part of this program. One of them reached back out to us to invite us to play in their baseball games. And while I did miss this past weekends game, I’m hopeful I’ll be able to attend their last one before I leave to Arizona.

This week I was also able to meet with Representative Wasserman Schultz in a intimate discussion meeting on how to start the conversation with members to recruit a more diverse staff. My biggest takeaway from the discussion was learning the amount of effort different people are taking to make the Hill more inclusive of minority communities. I hadn’t thought it was a big issue, I truly believed prior to the conversation that many members are doing what they can to give everyone the same opportunity as their peers to learn and work for them. Meaningful internships were also discussed, on how to ensure internship opportunities are more than just busy work. I found this part of the conversation very touching, because it’s a reminder that employers understand the significance of what internships opportunities mean for us.

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A Time for Reflection

This past Saturday, I was the designated group leader for our community service day with ASU alumni. I was nervous to see our group slowly trickle in to the lobby to leave as a group, considering how early in the morning in the morning it was. Thankfully, everyone in our group arrived on time, and we headed to the Metro for our commute. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jessica, who coordinates ASU alumni community service events in the D.C. area. We toured the extensive operations of the Capital Area Food Bank, including their sub-zero freezer, their client-facing shop and their sorting area, which is where we spent the morning. At first, it was confusing to figure out our volunteer roles among the chaos, but we soon established a smooth working order. It was daunting seeing the amount of food stacked on palettes being brought in via forklift, but I was amazed at how fast the time went by as we worked with each other and other volunteer groups. If one team was confused about how to sort a specific load of items, they communicated with the other teams to come to a consensus, which was essential to our accomplishing our goals. Although most of us were less than enthusiastic at waking up early on a Saturday morning for our community service activity, we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed working as a team and how fulfilling it was to know we contributed to the local community.

This past week, I went to my first Senate hearing because one of our national security and technology experts was testifying on the constitutionality of phone searches at the border. She argued that the recent Carpenter v. United States case and the Fourth Amendment argues for sanctions on searching phones at border checkpoints. Since I knew one of the witnesses testifying, I was able to sit in the front row. I was amazed at how close I was to the committee, which included Rand Paul and Kamala Harris. This also meant I was in direct view of the cameras, so I was also filmed throughout the hearing. When I came back to the office, my coworkers were entertained by my facial expressions as we replayed the live stream. I was trying my best to maintain neutrality, but somehow this came across as a dissatisfied expression. Paranoid that I would become a meme, I live streamed other hearings to observe intern behavior and put my facial expressions in perspective and was relieved when I saw an intern’s nose start bleeding.

This week, I am preparing for the ACLU’s annual Summer Advocacy Institute, in which high school students participate in a week long intensive course to strengthen their skills and knowledge as organizers. I am excited to help facilitate two workshops for the students, which include campaign planning and creating a lobby day plan. I have never developed a curriculum or agenda for an event of this scale, but luckily, I have the support of my team to guide me. More importantly, I am excited to meet the next generation of social justice advocates. During my short time in D.C., I have had a glimpse of how emotionally and physically draining the political environment can be, so I am looking forward to being re-energized by this inspirational group of students while also maintaining a mentor role. Winding down my internship within a mentor capacity will provide an opportunity for reflection of my experience this summer as I share my advice with younger students. Although it can be discouraging to work in this environment at times, I am constantly reminded of the good in this world. I am so grateful to be in D.C. at this point in time, and I hope I can share this optimism with these students.

Increasing Accessibility

Though every activity, outing, and event throughout our time in D.C. has been exciting, none has been as rewarding as the community service group excursion we did on Saturday. The entirety of the ASU Capital Scholars program went to volunteer to a food bank, where we spent a couple of hours packaging and organizing palettes of food to distribute to other food banks and families in the area. Before we began the work, we met up with former ASU alumni and met and discussed with them a bit before we went into the workspace. Volunteering at the food bank was not just a productive and selfless activity for us give back as a group, but it was a great way to bond with one another as well! This was especially because of how high-intensity all of our work was! Whenever we thought that we had finished the work, or were even close to finishing up the palettes we were working on, Cameron, Danielle, and Anthony would come in with their forklifts and give us new palettes. This made us get creative and we were breaking up the work amongst each other in categories. Wholeheartedly, I was very impressed with the strength and stamina we all had to lift and carry some of the crates and boxes filled to the brim with heavy items. Especially as we did not take breaks and were all doing heavy lifting and picking up heavy crates filled with boxes of meats!

 

The event as a whole allowed us to work as a collective group for one of the only times throughout the whole program. We have gone on group excursions where we had to briefly work together, but not at all to the extent that we did at the food bank. Labor work is not as simple as some may think. This is especially true when you are under a time crunch and have more work than preferred. The conditions that come with labor work usually require much more pressure and active thinking. We got a brief taste of these conditions while we were volunteering, and the short shift definitely wore us out. However, it was a minuscule way to thank and give back to the committee that has welcomed us in. Although we were only going to be here for the summer, we are still adding extra traffic and taking advantage of the resources that the city has to offer through a very commodified experience. Our experience of the city during the summer is one of privilege, and it is a reality that we as a group need to reflect on in order to fully comprehend the impact that our work that day truly did. Taking a couple hours out of our day in order to ensure that more families have access to healthy and nutritious foods that they may not otherwise have access to, is the bare minimum we can do to show our gratitude to the people whose city we were guests in.

 

It is necessary to view the intersectional aspect of projects in order to provide a more inclusive experience. Intersectionality has been a recurring theme throughout the week, and it is a message that we as a diverse group of individuals can benefit from holding discourse about. Apart from the reflection on class systems and privilege, I had the opportunity to hear from both Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Both of the conversation topics were regarding inclusion, diversity, and intersectionality. Senator Sanders held a town hall in regards to income inequality for employees of large corporations, where workers shared their stories about their food shortages and trouble with finances despite working for some of the most powerful corporations in the world. Rep. Wasserman Schultz held an intimate discussion about what members of Congress can do to recruit more talent from marginalized communities and to make the interning experience for low-income and students from minority communities more accessible. Increasing accessibility is a way that we can all utilize our privilege in order to reach an intersectional and inclusive community. This was a topic that came up during the food bank as well. There is no reason why uncontrollable circumstances such as socioeconomic status, should prevent students and individuals of all backgrounds from achieving or pursuing their goals.

Blog 7: Community Service

I woke up that morning of the community service event very tired. I hadn’t been able to sleep well the night before and only managed to get a few hours of sleep. However, I was excited for the event. Since I was young, my mother would take me to do community service events every weekend and I grew to appreciate doing charity work.

I managed to sleep for a few extra minutes on the metro before arriving at the location. I was a little bit cranky on the way up, but once we got there my attitude changed. The people that worked at the volunteer center were very friendly and likeable.

Once we were ready to begin, they asked for a few volunteers to work in the freezer. A few of us volunteered and they gave us massive one piece coats to wear. We loaded different assortments of meats into the freezer and sorted them. While it was very cold, it was a nice break from the D.C. humidity.

The community service event went great and I believe we all had a lot of fun attending it. It was a great way to spend time with each other while also working for a positive cause. I would be interested in doing another event around D.C. again.

One thing that I learned over the past week is that France has the best national soccer team in the world. I’ve been a major French soccer fan since I was young and I’m beyond happy that they won the World Cup. I was sad that I left my jersey in Arizona, but it was an incredible experience watching them win.

 

Discipline

One of the highlights of my time in DC has been the ability to explore my morals and life choices and see how they can help me to form a successful career. Some of the stellar aid I have received on the journey has been from a book provided to the capital scholars entitled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg Mckeown.

Before my reading of the literature, my understanding of essentialism was that it was simply a way to promote a narrow mindset closed to new beliefs and ideas and only focused on ensuring efficiency at all cost. Furthermore, I pictured essentialism as minimalistic as well, cutting off everything in order to promote one common goal. Although essentialism can be confused with these ideals, there is much more to the ideology. One of the books key lessons focuses on the fact that instead of balancing numerous things at once and stressing about how you can possibly get everything done, it is important to weigh the trade-off and ask if you can go above and beyond expectations on something that will have a greater trade-off. In my personal life as is common with most college students, students attempt to balance 50,000 things at once and lose quality and ignore what is important. For instance, in my life, I often stress about numerous projects or social situations that don’t deserve my time, when I can focus on a school project and make it something where I learn a lot and am extremely proud of. The ability to say no instead of to the non-essential and attempting to be a people pleaser is key to being effective and promoting success and maintain professional relations and is something I strive to get better about.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg Mckeown also teaches the idea of being present in the here and now and allowing this ideology to promote further efficiency and success. Not that it is bad to focus on how to create a happy future, but as I know I do, when we focus so much on our future, we rob ourselves of the ability to enjoy and prosper in the here and now. Looking towards the future is excellent, but in order to get to the future, you must be able to work in the present in front of the other and get there. This is also something I struggle with and am hoping to incorporate this idea more into my daily life.

    My week at work so far has wonderful and eye-opening as always. I sadly missed Monday as I was not feeling great but came back Tuesday and was ready to work. Tuesday, I had the pleasure to attend two hearing, the first being about the Future of Fossil Fuel a hearing hosted by the Science, Space, and Technology committee. The hearing focused on how to create cleaner coal and oil. While I believed the science of carbon capture and carbon scrubbers are wonderful, it ignores the fact that carbon is not the way of the future and prevents investment in energy. One thing I also learned about was the real economic powerhouse that infrastructure can be. On a hearing about a new proposed I11 freeway, I was thankful to attend on the behalf of my office, I learned that the roughly 3-billion-dollar program could add 10 billion to the economy every year according to the department of transportation estimates. Today I had the pleasure to learn about how science often has a drastic effect on guiding regulation and the actions of everyday policy and our everyday actions. For instance the reason we know what constitutes “safe” water free of millions of different chemicals is due to years of scientific research and the ability of policymakers to understand and in cooperate these ideas into policy, looking at today’s society where certain science is often just disregarded when it comes to policy making it helped make me realize the real threat of disregarding science and the effects it has on policy. As this is my second to last week in DC I am looking forward to seeing what the next week holds and am thankful for my time spent in the district.

 

 

Your Weekly Update with Mihaila Tuba

The Capital Scholars recently went to the Capital Area Food Bank. Their mission is to create access to good, healthy food in every community and believe that this access to nutritious food is a basic human right.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let me put this into perspective for you – In the Washington Metropolitan area there are 700,000 people that are at risk of hunger. That’s over 15% of it’s population. The Capital Area Food Bank works daily to end this. They partner with people all over The District and they make sure to not give their community anything but the best.

We had an early Saturday morning and I was exhausted. With no time to stop for coffee and only one cup left in the cafeteria, four of us sat at a table passing the hot cup of joe around, taking small sips so there’s enough to share. But then the lead man came out through the doors and his energy woke all of us up. It made me feel awful about complaining about not drinking coffee that morning when I know that so many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. He was so excited to see so many people there to help his community. He spoke of their values, mission and goals and you could just feel the love in his heart. I know that it made everyone else just as excited to help the community that took us Arizonans in for the summer.

I will say it wasn’t easy work, but it was so rewarding. Four of us spent the morning in the freezer bringing donated meats out for the rest of us to distribute and pack to be given out to those in need. There was so. Much. Meat. And it kept on coming. But all of us there took on the jobs that were given to us and didn’t stop eagerly working until the end.

The people working with us were so kind, especially the DC Arizona State University Alums. During some short breaks we talked with them about their lives and how they got to where they are now. It’s always nice seeing Sun Devils helping Sun Devils.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to give back to the public. All I can say is thank you to the Capital Area Food Bank for allowing us to come help them out for a few hours. I will never forget the experience and I am looking forward to doing more in the Phoenix community when I return home.

This week I learned how important bipartisan friendships are. Currently our nation is so divided and it seems as if no one is willing to get off their high horse and reach across the isle for the good of the people. (Speaking of the isle, I got to go on the House Floor on Friday and it was SO COOL.) It’s refreshing to see that not all are like that though. I recently watched a video called “Rival Survival” – a show that took Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) put politics aside and spend 6 days on a deserted island in the north Pacific. This was from a few years ago but we need this again!! Someone call the Discovery Channel and put Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on that island and let’s see what happens.

Mihaila

P.S. The World Cup is officially over and even though I’m sad Serbia didn’t make it very far I’m so proud of them. ŽIVA BILA SRBIJA & VIVE LA FRANCE!

The Essence of Essentialism

While reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, I realized that its teachings apply to many of my experiences in life, including my internship and especially my life as a parent. Regarding my internship, I found it rather odd that the mentality that is pushed on us as interns is to always say yes to every task that is asked of us. Yet, the book teaches us to first evaluate the situation, determine if it can fit into the time we have, and finally to conclude whether it can contribute to our long-term goals. This seems very contradictory to me. But, that is just the surface impression. The central and underlying theme of Essentialism was to prioritize the things in your life, so when you encounter opportunity – which we all frequently do – we could have the tools to take a step back and evaluate the situation to determine what will serve our needs best.

A lesson that resonated with me while reading Essentialism was that it is ok to say no. In fact, it is often times preferential to say no because it allows us time to consider and evaluate the costs and benefits of each decision we make. Another lesson was that “less is better” (McKeown, 2014). McKeown eloquently added that this means more than “occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way” (McKeown, 2014).

McKeown stated that initially, we are prone to always say yes to tasks and projects that we are asked to participate in. He then elaborated further stating that after some time, we come to the realization that in order to lead a fulfilling and satisfying life, we need to be able to say no. This was important to me because I too have come to this realization over the years of my adulthood. When I was younger, I never wanted to say no. I wanted to participate in everything because I didn’t want to miss out. But as I grew older and more mature, and more importantly, after the birth of my daughter, Kira, I soon realized that the expectations I was setting for myself were those that rivaled the capabilities of a superhero – which unfortunately, I was not.

When I was younger, I grew up in Edina, MN – a city whose residents have long been referred to as “cake-eaters.” This term came from Marie Antoinette, who heartlessly proclaimed (about her starving subjects), “let them eat cake.” She wanted their love and admiration, but also wanted her “cake” and extravagant lifestyle. Hence, the term “cake-eaters.” Growing up, I remember that rival schools would refer to us this way because they viewed us, our lives, and our access to opportunities as people that strived for having it all, doing it all, and wanting it all. This however, was something that is not only unhealthy (mentally and nutritionally), but impossible. The standards set by that connotation drove me and other students to hold internal expectations that were unobtainable.

After Kira was born, I was faced with countless decisions: go back to college, go out with friends, save money for a trip, pay for daycare, etc. This really jolted me into reevaluating my life and what was important to me. The choices I made came with consequences either way – miss out on fun with friends, miss out on school, miss out on spending time with my daughter, etc. To sort through this realization for the need to prioritize and, as McKeown stated, think of the long-term goals and how my decisions could contribute to those goals, I came to not only accept that there were always going to be losses in one form or another, but also to appreciate the fact that I was in full control of the choices I made. I determined that my daughter and husband were most essential to me, just like McKeown when he determined that what was essential to him was “wrestling with [his] children on the trampoline instead of going to a networking event” (McKeown, 2014). My education was essential to me. My future and that of my family were essential. After these essential aspects of my life, came the less important things. So, I chose to cut out much of my previous social life and activities because they did not serve my long-term goals.

While studying Philosophy at ASU, I have been able to read works by numerous philosophers. One in particular stood out to me as I read Essentialism: Martha C. Nussbaum. She has written many essays on emotions and theories on how to lead the best possible life. In her essay “Human Functioning and Social Justice,” she described essentialism similarly to McKeown. She said, “one version of such a historically grounded empirical essentialism – which, since it takes its stand within human experience, I shall now call ‘internalist’ essentialism” (Nussbaum, 1992). It is this ‘internal essentialism’ that I feel embodies what McKeown signifies in his writing. While referring to the process of becoming an essentialist, she added that “[w]e are not pretending to discover some value-neutral facts about ourselves, independently of all evaluation; instead, we are conducting an especially probing and basic sort of evaluative inquiry” (Nussbaum, 1992). Through this process, we are able to root out the essential aspects of our life and devote our energy and resources to them, first and foremost.

Both Nussbaum and McKeown really seemed to offer valid and inspiring insight into what it takes to be successful and happy in life. As I stated earlier, the process of embracing and becoming an essentialist requires that you step back and reevaluate your priorities to determine what can contribute to your long-term goals in life. Determine what matters to you and anything extra that happens to work out within the gaps is just an extra, a bonus. While referring to the fact that we cannot sufficiently satisfy one need by taking from another, Nussbaum adds that “[t]his limits the trade-offs that it will be reasonable to make, and thus limits the applicability of quantitative cost-benefit analysis” (Nussbaum, 1992). McKeown would agree that the evaluative steps necessary require such an analysis. And he would add that by eliminating the non-essential, we are on course to lead our best possible life.

References

McKeown, G. (2014). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (1st ed.). New York: Crown Business.

Nussbaum, M. C. (1992, May). Human Functioning and Social Justice: In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism. Political Theory, 20(2), 202-246. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/192002