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”Two weeks of my American experience” by Natalia Slepuhin, PFP fellow from Moldova

October, 26 2015

Two weeks of American experience


All of us most probably heard that the US is all about these nice things: democracy, diversity, openness, etc. The very first day in this country proved that these are not just rumors. In the two weeks that I've been here, the American people kept showing that to me, over and over again. And I saw it everywhere: at the airport, the train station, on the streets, at the library, the grocery markets, the bank, my host mother and the lady at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge front desk. Every one of the people I met, showed me all those things that I only heard about this country.


I have a story to tell about each one of those people and places that I mentioned above. But the place I would like to tell you about further on is the place where I've spent most of the hours, my workplace, the State House of Massachusetts. I'll write about what I've seen there and what I'd like to see more of in my country.

 

Transparency. When I first went to the State House, which is the state capitol and house of government of the Massachusetts, I was nervous and unsure about how I will get into the building. I didn't have a phone to call the Office of the Representative I was assigned to and I didn't have any type of special permit, I just knew the room number - 237. And I was sure that that room number won't be enough to grant me access into the building. But guess what? I didn't need a permit or an access card, or a badge. I just passed through security control and the only thing the officer asked me was if I knew how to find what I was looking for. I can't tell you how surprised I was to find out that anybody can just walk in. Moreover, there are even free guided tours of the building. Anyone is free to attend either the Senate sessions, the House sessions, Committee hearings or any other event taking place in the open to public spaces in that building.

 

Why is transparency so important? Because it enables citizens, the taxpayers, to easily research and hold elected officials accountable for how they spend public money at all levels of government. Being aware of that, on one hand elected officials will act in a responsible way and on the other hand there will be a higher level of trust of the citizens. For me, it is a perfect combination to build a truly democratic system and to achieve better results.


At the same time, I am aware of the fact that this system I see here wouldn't work without another important element - Citizens Involvement. At the Massachusetts State House I daily witness how active is the participation of the American people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. People are actively involved in the legislative process, organizing lobby campaigns to put democratic pressure on legislators and make their voices heard. People on the left are fighting for get their wages raised up to $15 an hour. They spend hours waiting to testify against or in favor of a certain bill at Committee hearings.They organize all kinds of presentations for the legislators in order to raise their awareness regarding certain problems their community is facing with. State Representatives and Senators have been invited to attend an educational forum on water quality research hosted by the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition Sharing.

 

Americans share. They share their personal experience. They share their happiness and they share their sadness. But most importantly, they share their knowledge. Americans understood that the best way to live in a better society is to always try to make your neighbor, your colleague better. And I've understood this from them. At the Massachusetts State House I found a lot of sharing. I have the best colleagues that would never be busy if you need their help and it doesn't matter if their phone is ringing or they have a huge amount of papers to work on. A big thanks to them. Senators, Representatives, staff members - they are always ready to answer your questions and talk about what they've learned so far. Moreover, they organize seminars, forums and receptions where everybody has a chance to hear and discuss their experiences, decisions and journeys.

 

And here comes the last and the most important element for me - Caring. Nothing can be done well if people don't care. Here, I've seen a lot of care. The legislators care about constituents. Many people call daily to the legislator's office, talking about the problems they face, and legislators and staff put a lot of effort to try and solve constituents' problems. All of these people also care about those who, at certain moments, took care and protected their country - American veterans.


Transparency, Involvement, Sharing and Caring. These are the most important things I've noticed in this country so far. All of these represent a solid foundation for any country, to build a strong nation. I can only admire these traits and I would be happy to see more of these in my country. There's lots more to see and explore. Lots more to be done, to learn. And there is no better way to learning than doing. That's why I am thankful to the people of the US and the especially the PFP Program for giving me this opportunity to develop not only professionally but also to be part of it all for wonderful 6 weeks.

 

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