June 10, 2011

Miami women's swimming's Mandi Grandjean (Canton) is in the midst of her unique experience in the national's capital, Washington D.C. During her nine weeks, she'll be submitting periodic blog updates about her adventure. Here is her second entry.

I thought that I was pretty busy as a student athlete because I was involved in other organizations during the school year. That was until I came to DC and learned what the word busy really meant. These past two weeks, since I last wrote, have been absolutely insane and I mean that in the best way possible.

On Saturday May 28, two days before Memorial Day, we were able to attend the Memorial Day Concert Rehearsal and sit in the VIP section. This was probably one of the most moving events I have ever experienced. This concert is broadcast on PBS. Gary Sinise from CSI: New York and Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds hosted the concert. Some of the artists that performed were Kris Allen, B.B. King, Pia Toscano, Yolanda Adams and many more. The best part of the concert were the true stories that the actors told to the audience about different families' tragic military stories. There was not a dry eye in the audience. It was especially moving because the real families were all in the audience sitting a couple rows up from us. I highly recommend to everyone to watch this amazing production!

The second week was full of unbelievable speakers. Some of the highlights were meeting former CIA officer Ron Marks, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) . We also met Miami Alum and House Budget Committee Chairman Congressman Paul Ryan. As some of you may know Rep. Ryan's budget has been discussed on a daily basis by the Congress and media. Rep. Ryan is an awesome man and had a great personality, obviously because he went to Miami!

We also met with Speaker John Boehner, who is also in charge of the 8th district in Ohio which includes Miami. Just being able to sit in the Speaker's Lobby gave me chills. It was a beautiful place and elegantly decorated. Speaker Boehner spent a lot of time answering our questions and talking to us one on one. I actually got to sit right by him. We all wish he would stop by and pay a visit to Miami.

In addition, we met with Rep. Mike Turner whose district includes the Dayton area. He told us that his daughter attends Miami as well. Rep. Turner was very receptive and willing to answer any question we asked. This past week was the week of Miami alums and connection as we also visited Anita Brikman who is an anchor and reporter at WUSA-TV. Anita was extremely nice and energetic!

We met the director of the United States Secret Service, Mark Sullivan. Just being in the Secret Service building was pretty intense, let alone questioning the director for about an hour. We went to Fox News and met Bret Baier and James Rosen. Both of them are insanely smart and hilarious people.

It would take me absolutely forever to list everything that we have done considering we have been meeting with about 5-6 speakers on average. A couple of my favorite events were going to NPR and meeting Scott Simon. Mr. Simon is one of the most widely listened to and respected radio hosts in the world. We also met with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Although you will not hear him speak in an oral argument, this Supreme Court Justice is absolutely hysterical and is truly inspiring. Long story short, I somehow offered him swimming lessons, so I am still waiting to hear back from him on that one.

But one experience that I will never forget was actually going to CIA headquarters and meetings with Andy Makridis, director of Asian Pacific, Latin American & African Analysis. The security to get into the building was very lengthy. We could not bring anything that transmitted a signal into the building, i.e. cellphones, cameras, computers etc. One of my friends forgot that she had an SD card in her wallet and remembered right when the security guard gave us our last warning before we would be arrested if they found anything. Needless to say she was very lucky! Seeing all of the spy technologies throughout history was intriguing. I could have spent an entire week there. Even though the director couldn't answer a lot of our questions, we were still so thankful to have this opportunity.

I cannot believe that the three-week speaker period is finally coming to an end tomorrow. This has truly been the most rewarding and inspiring experience of my life. I start my internship with the Embassy of Iraq on Monday. Wish me luck!