For aspiring leaders, there is no better place to find examples of leadership—both good and bad—than in Washington, D.C.
That’s why Dr. Linda Becker, director of Union’s leadership minor program, and eleven aspiring leaders in the program set out for the nation’s capital for a week in May—to experience American government firsthand and learn valuable lessons from a number of political and religious leaders.
The four-year leadership program was launched in 2008 thanks to funding from Shawnee Mission Health and Adventist Health System Rocky Mountain Region. Students encounter a variety of specialized courses and experiences to develop their leadership potential—including a course with a summer trip alternating every other year between Washington, D.C. and the Minnesota Boundary Waters.
The group started the week by meeting Deb Fischer, one of Nebraska’s two senators, along with other representatives of the state. Students asked questions and learned how individual citizens could connect with their own representatives.
The students visited the Supreme Court on the very day one of its more important and contested cases was being heard—the case involving public-sector unions. It was here the students saw firsthand the American system at work, with the judicial branch hearing arguments while protesters from all sides attempted to make their voices heard outside.
“What better way for our students to learn our system of government?” asked Becker.
In addition, the students visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “I believe the order in which we saw everything could not have been better,” said Becker. “Our students truly understood when we were done that freedom is not free.”
Corrine Maloba-Kazembe, a senior nursing major from Kenya, noted that for her (and most of the students), the trip’s highlight was “actually meeting and talking with Dr. Barry Black in his office. Amazing. He helped me realize I have a role in the world. I have a purpose.” Black is the 62nd chaplain of the United States Senate—and a Seventh-day Adventist.
He may be one of the most inspiring stories of leadership in a city of leaders. Working his way from rear admiral in the United States Navy to chief of chaplains in the Navy, Black now has an office in the Capitol. In 2003, he became not only the first African American to hold the position, but the first and only Adventist.
Black grew up in housing projects, but credits his mother for instilling in him the importance of integrity and, yes, Jesus. He told the students, “Without Jesus we simply can’t do what’s important. But with Jesus, we can.”
This adventure was followed with a tour of the General Conference building, World Headquarters for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, meeting church leaders, many of whom are Union College graduates.
“I learned more from this trip than I possibly could from a book or a lecture,” said Maloba-Kazembe. “It inspired me and I can’t stop thinking about it. I have been encouraged to become the leader God has called me to be.”