Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It was 2008 when I first realized how Washington D.C. is special. I’m not talking about a new found knowledge from a textbook regarding the burning of the White House, but rather a real appreciation for the area I have grown up in. Barack Obama and John McCain were facing off for the presidential seat, and as we all know, it was impossible to hide from the race. I believe I was sitting in my living room watching television when I asked my mom about my cousins, her sister’s children, and what it’s like to live in a place that is not D.C. My uncle and aunt live in Houston, Texas, roughly 1400 miles away; and for them, not every news station discusses politics. Conversely, in D.C. during the presidential election, every news station, whether local or national, discusses politics. Every page of the Post talks about politics, from the recent debate on the front page to Michelle’s new bangs in the Style section. The District of Columbia corrupts the minds of children with an immense knowledge and tolerance for politics. So that day, watching the news, I realized that there are places in this country that are hidden from the “sharknado” that is politics.
            I would imagine I’m not alone when I say that I never imagined myself working in the government. Most children and teenagers in the area are so desensitized by politics and government, that to us, working for the government seems ordinary. A few weeks ago, while I was driving downtown, I saw something that would contradict that thought. I was on 17th street near the Washington Monument when I saw scores of people who appeared to be college-aged. They were in athletic attire, so I assumed they were getting in their daily workout after a busy day on Capitol Hill. Seeing those people put into perspective the attractiveness of government jobs. There are probably thousands of college students each year who major in Political Science and pray that by summer, they have an internship with a Senator or Congressman. I guess that with the recent economic crisis, a stable government job that pays well, looks good on resumes, and places one in a vibrant city seems pretty ideal.
            Now, fast-forward five years from that day in front of the television, and, guess what, I’m working in the government. Being the child of two government employees, I would never have assumed that I would be working for “the man.” And after a little less than two months, I can say that being involved in the largest and most powerful government in the world is pretty cool. I have an ID badge, I have a parking pass, and I could possibly have some clearance, although I would bet I have none because I’m an intern; but the prospect is awesome. Coming into the summer, I was completely unsure of what I would be doing. I imagined myself lounging at home and mowing lawns, but by the grace of a family friend and a few connections, “bada-bing bada-boom,” I’m at NIH.
To be honest, it is surreal. My first thought coming into NIH was that I had to find and meet Francis Collins. At the end of high school, I was required to write a senior thesis, and the subject of mine was the relationship between science and religion; and who better to aid me in my research than Collins. I distinctly remember that my adviser, after reading the rough draft, told me to add more sources because my paper was relying too heavily on Collins. So, needless to say, I was excited to come to NIH. Although I have yet to meet Dr. Collins, I have still greatly enjoyed my time here. I have the opportunity to witness first-hand what it takes to manage an art gallery, and to do it in such a different setting makes it all the more intriguing. The combination of art and health care is a road less traveled in Art History textbooks, and for that I don’t know why. Art can be one of the strongest influences in a person’s recovery, especially because it can add some color and life to an otherwise bland and intimidating hospital room.
My art experience was limited coming into NIH, but now that I have worked in an office and delved into the world of art management, I can honestly say that I look forward to each coming summer when I can continue to chip away at my art experience and become more knowledgeable of the diverse field. 

Tommy Finton

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