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Watching History Unfold: Heather Guthrie

February 19, 2009

Angelo State senior Heather Guthrie is a government major, but in January she got to be part of history.

Through the ASU Honors Program, Guthrie participated in a two-week Washington Center program in Washington D.C. that included attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

“It was amazing,” Guthrie said.  “Everyone was so elated and so happy to be there to experience that together.  I have never seen that many people in one place that got along so well in spite of the cold and how crowded it was.”

“The feeling of being part of that piece of history, part of that group, the hope and the happiness that was in the air, it was something I have never experienced before,” she added.  “That was the most amazing part of the whole experience.”

Prior to the inauguration ceremony, Guthrie spent much of the two weeks attending seminars and visiting foreign embassies.  The seminars included presentations by former ABC “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel and the ambassador from Pakistan.  Visits to the Chinese and Canadian embassies were highlighted by presentations from the Chinese ambassador and Canadian foreign minister.  But, Guthrie also got to play tourist.

“We also got a lot of free time to go and do what we wanted,” she said.  “So, I went to Ford’s Theater and roamed around the city a lot.  I also went to the National Archives to see the original Declaration of Independence and the original U.S. Constitution.”

Some of her other activities included trips to the various monuments and being in the crowd of 400,000 people who attended the “We Are One” concert on the National Mall the Sunday prior to the inauguration.

At the end of the two-week program, Guthrie and the other students were tasked with writing a memo to President Obama advising him on what to pay particular attention to and what to be careful of during his presidency.

“Essentially, I said to speak to the people,” Guthrie said.  “He has this e-mail list and mailing list of people that is unprecedented.  We have never before seen a campaign where the Internet was used to such great lengths and with such success.”

“But, I also advised him to be careful not to go too much over the heads of Congress,” she added, “because if he angers Congress, he is not going to get anything done, even if it is within his own party.  That was the problem with the Carter administration, why he was not able to do anything.  His Congress was not willing to work with him because he angered them early on.”

Guthrie was able to participate in the Washington Center program through funding provided by the recent gift of the Alvin and Patricia New Honors Program Enhancement Fund.

A Littlefield native, Guthrie will graduate in May, but will be sticking around ASU awhile longer while she completes her master’s degree in public administration.  Then, she plans to go far, far away as a member of the Peace Corps.

“I am interested in working in Foreign Service and the Peace Corps is a good way to get your foot in the door,” Guthrie said.  “You get the kind of expertise in a particular area that no one else has because you live there, particularly the language.  If you live for 22 months in another country, especially a Third-World country where not a lot of the people speak English, you have to learn the language and learn it well.”

Tentatively, Guthrie said she hopes to be sent to either Romania or Morocco, then return to the U.S. for a second master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University.

During her time at ASU, Guthrie has already whetted her appetite for foreign travel by going on three study abroad trips through the Center for International Studies, twice to Germany and once to Scotland.

A Carr Scholarship recipient, Guthrie is also president of the ASU Young Democrats, tutors her peers in the Supplemental Instruction program and works on the ongoing Community Development Initiatives.  Basically, she has little free time.

“I am a political junkie,” Guthrie said.  “But, I like to spend time with my friends when I can.  I recently started learning how to ride a motorcycle, so that is also something I do.  But, I don’t have a lot of time to spend off campus.”

But, if she gets her wishes, it will not be long before she is far from campus, touching tomorrow in a whole new world.