The Quest for the Perfect Fourth

By Denise Altounian
California State University – Fresno, Class of 2014
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship 2015

From the time I received the email of my acceptance to the Leo Sarkisian program I had one date circled in my calendar, July 4th. As a lifelong resident of Southern California, the Fourth of July usually means the same thing ever year, a family barbecue at the beach. In need of some change, I was looking forward to celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington DC. As for the rest of our group, which consists of three other lifelong Southern Californians, two Canadians and a Minnesotan, we all agreed we were ready to have the experience of a lifetime. Our group was about to spend the most important American holiday right in the nation’s capital. What could possibly go wrong?

At last, the day had arrived. To our surprise, the morning brought rain and thunder storms, however we weren’t about to let a little rain and humidity stand in our way. We were ready to go, all seven of us complete with our coordinating red, white and blue attire. Around mid-afternoon we set out to start the festivities. But where exactly were we headed? When you live in a house with seven other people, inevitably you assume someone else knows the plan. In this case, we all assumed someone else had an idea of what to do until the fireworks show later that evening. We found ourselves in the National Mall, under the now powerful afternoon sun, walking aimlessly through the dense humidity and crowds of people. What now? Food of course. I had my sights set on the traditional American bbq- hamburgers, hotdogs and the like. I glanced around at the many food trucks near by and realized my options- kebob, shawarmah and falafel. Not exactly what I had in mind. In the end the group settled on hotdogs and Philly cheese-steaks- an acceptable Fourth of July lunch.

We now found ourselves fed, upbeat and ready to continue on. One of the important lessons we were told to take away from the Leo Sarkisian program is the importance of networking. As good interns, we called our new friends from the Armenian Assembly and spent the rest of the day celebrating in Georgetown. Eventually our group split into two and with my group getting caught in a torrential downpour, ultimately taking refuge in the Smithsonian Castle. With little patience, phone service or energy we trekked to the Lincoln Memorial to meet back with the rest of the group. As we approached the memorial and the sea of eager families waiting to watch the show, I realized we had the best spot in all of Washington D.C. As soon as the fireworks show began, the day’s misadventures suddenly seemed oh so worth it. Watching the most beautiful fireworks show with the Lincoln Memorial behind us under the backdrop of the Washington monument was breathtaking. It is truly a sight that will never leave my memory. The mix-ups, bad food and humid weather no longer mattered. We had finally found each other and took in an amazing show.

I may have been three thousand miles away from my own family, but watching the fire works surrounded by my new family was just as special. And I use the word family with complete sincerity. Although we have only known one another for three weeks, we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We are believed to be the first intern class to have daily lunchtime picnics and nightly family dinners. We religiously watch Jeopardy each night and often follow it with coffee and a spirited discussion on the happenings of the world. You can always find laughter and music flowing through the house from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed. The initial apprehension of living with six strangers for eight weeks quickly dissipated once I realized I was instead going to spend my summer with a group of motivated, intelligent, passionate activists. In the end, the Fourth of July taught me it’s not the journey you take that’s important, but the company you keep. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my fourth any other way.

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