A City Steeped in History

My experience working at the Asia Foundation (TAF) has been both exciting and rewarding. While my internship suffered an inauspicious start thanks to a four-day long baggage delay, the work that I was given was fascinating. I was tasked with helping the organization’s vice-president formulate a monograph series on the history of the TAF, while also doing research on economic development issues that Thailand is currently facing as an advanced middle income country. Adjusting to a 9–5 work schedule was tricky; packing my own lunches while scrambling to catch the metro in the morning was next to impossible. Still, my first two weeks have been amazing. What have I enjoyed the most? The preservation of memory in Washington D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial

Every street, every building, every nook and cranny in the capital has an interesting story attached to it. The house in which I’m living used to be a Presidential hunting lodge, the circle next to which I work was designed to act as a defensive stronghold during an invasion; even the wave of new shops and offices cannot escape the historicity of the city as the Washington monument peeks through the buildings, being taller than each and every one of them. The balance of modernity and antiquity in the city defines D.C.

Since I’m living in the suburbs of D.C., I haven’t been able to explore the city as much as I would have liked to. However, the little that I have seen has been extremely impressive and entertaining. On day one alone I caught my first glimpse of the White House, visited the National Portrait Gallery to see Albert Bierstadt’s stunning Among the Sierra Mountains and wrapped up with a food truck fiesta alongside the Potomac. The following week involved a magical night at the National Mall to watch the 4th of July fireworks extravaganza, a trip to the Capitol and a long walk along the Reflection Pool. The importance given to the preservation of historical and cultural memory is inspiring; the city may grow but will never leave the past behind. The Lincoln and World War II memorials are two powerful testaments to this underlying creed. My work at the Asia Foundation involves analyzing TAF’s efforts towards developing fair and capable legal institutions in Asia; the guiding philosophy of the organization’s work in this sector is the protection of freedoms and provision of justice. Reading President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address engraved on the walls of the memorial and seeing the gold stars to represent fallen soldiers in World War II with the words “Here we mark the price of freedom” emblazoned below, were sobering moments of introspection. I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit sites like this because they help me understand the importance of selflessness and ceaselessly working to improve people’s lives.

The Freedom Wall

Written by Vivan Malkani ’19, Political Science major, FSI Global Policy Intern at The Asia Foundation in Washington, D.C.