A summer to remember: High School Democrats of America Summit

Editorials editor Binqi Chen shares her experience meeting Martin O'Malley and touring the White House


Andrew Peng

Governor Martin O'Malley gives a speech to HSDA Summit attendees

Most teens envision their perfect summer filled with activities like long walks along the beach, trips across the country or perhaps even across oceans to places such as Disneyworld or Universal Studios. However, as a student deeply intrigued and fascinated by politics, I found my own Magic Kingdom right in the nation’s capital.

I stepped out of my car and into the humid D.C. air on June 26th carrying a packed duffel bag. I stared above at the flags that read “Thurston Hall” and were embellished with the George Washington University logo. This was going to be my home for the next four days. This was the start of the High School Democrats of America Summit.

A few months prior, I had come across a Facebook page that my friend had recommended. The page was for the National High School Democrats of America (HSDA) and they were promoting their application for students to spend a few days in Washington D.C to further explore both politics and the values of the Democratic Party. I was immediately interested and proceeded to apply. A few weeks later, I received an email confirming my acceptance.

Upon my arrival, I was led into GWU’s Thurston Hall dormitories. I began to branch out and tried to make new friends. I learned that students had traveled from all across the country.

I was amazed by how politically aware everybody was and how enthusiastic they were about spreading the liberal message. The people I met, even though most considered themselves Democrats, were spread on a wide range of political ideologies. Some were hardcore Bernie Sanders supporters that backed socialist ideals, others were Hillary Clinton followers, and some were more on the conservative side.

After settling into our rooms and doing numerous icebreaker activities, all 96 students were broken up into groups of nine or ten with one adult mentor and we were off for a tour of the National Mall to conclude our Sunday night.

The following day, most of us woke up at 6:00 A.M. to join in on the Pro-Choice rally outside the Supreme Court. This was my very first rally, and I’m was so glad it was for an issue that held incredible significance to me as a woman.

Throughout the rest of the day, we listened to speeches and seminars given by organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Communications Workers of America, Generation Progress Action, and the Human Rights Campaign. These sessions were phenomenal, and I had never felt so motivated about politics before.

Later that evening, we took a tour of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. We walked past dozens of pictures of President Obama and his administration, along with posters with the signatures of Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton. We got to see the working environment of the DNC and how each department worked.

However, my favorite part of the tour was getting to see (and TOUCH) one of the filing cabinets of the historic Watergate break in. This made my high school journalist self jump with joy.

Tuesday was equally as hectic, as half of the group was scheduled for a White House tour while the other half had a Senate Gallery tour. Being able to tour the White House was such a memorable event, from the hour long security check to the walk through the Blue, Red and Green Rooms.

The day concluded with another tour of the Capitol Building, panels from the DSCC, Students for Hillary, young elected leaders at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Wednesday marked the last day of the summit and we began the day with another speech from the DCCC and from the amazing presidential candidate Martin O’Malley himself.

O’Malley’s visit had previously not been on the scheduled agenda, so everyone was buzzing with excitement and all wanted to meet him. O’Malley gave a very inspirational speech about the importance of young adults being engaged in politics and changing the world. His speech also gave a wonderful conclusion of the summit and why we were all there in the first place.

The four incredible days had come to an end. Throughout the duration of the summit, I had met so many inspiring people with such strong standings and unique stories. I was truly amazed about the work that some of my peers were doing such as creating their very own political campaigns, working as Senate Pages, and going from door to door knocking and gaining the support of their locals.
I can’t wait to return next year, and see how much the organization has grown, to divulge further about the Democratic Party, and how the hard work of students can impact the world. The friendships I made and the memories that were shared among us were definitely better than any vacation could supply.