TV Shows, Superpowers, and D.C. Reality

I recently finished watching the seven incredible seasons of The West Wing. It’s absolutely enrapturing. But it’s a dramatic TV show meant to engage devoted audiences; it bears little resemblance to reality. At least that is what I would try tell myself as I fixated on the screen - mouth agape - guffawing at the magnificence of Washington, D.C. But the first time I went on a walk to familiarize myself with the area I stumbled upon the Capitol. The first time it snowed, and I ran outside to examine this novel substance (I’m a California kid), I saw through a snowy flurry that I was walking towards an obtrusive white building with a large gate. Oh yes…that would be the White House.

My first time encountering these places was indescribable. It was a surreal kind of rush—like suddenly realizing you have a superpower and everyone else would too if only they’d take a minute to think about it. The thing is, this feeling did not go away after my first couple of walks. The fact that I can go on a morning stroll to the White House—a place where some of the most vital national and international decisions are made—does not get old. The wonderful part of it all is that these famous political hot spots are not all that get me going. On every block there is some significant building where brilliant people are doing vital work. I am filled with that sensation on every street corner. To be here taking part in it is something I never imagined, and it is like nothing I could have imagined. It’s humbling, grand, overwhelming, challenging, thrilling—like something out of an Aaron Sorkin script. And I get a whole semester here! Here we go…


Dasha Burns is a UC Berkeley senior double majoring in Anthropology and Media Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the United Nations Information Centre as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.