Who gets to play Mafia on the back space of George Washington’s mansion?
We do. Well, the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows did. And that’s just one of the many perks associated with this opportunity. As I finish up my first week of the program, I’m extremely grateful and humbled by opportunities granted and privileges afforded to me.
It’s wild. Honestly, wild. Our schedule includes a visit to the White House (which, believe it or not, I’m still very excited about), meetings with four sitting members of Congress, a meeting with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor in her chambers, a visit to Dr. Carla Hayden at the Library of Congress, and so many other amazing visits to businesses, public organizations, and more.
I arrived with a lot of uncertainty on Sunday. I didn’t really know who I would be living amongst for the next five weeks. Fortunately, there was no real awkard stage—my peers are truly wonderful, accomplished, and inspiring to be around. We started off with a barbecue and began to plant the seeds of summer friendship.
Monday was when the real party started. We were welcomed by our program facilitators and, of course, played a few ice breakers. One of the associate curators then took us around on a tour of the museum’s education center. After a great tour, we had lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn, which included a few of George Washington’s favorite meals, like hoecakes. Later in the day, one of the assistant curators took us on a VIP Tour of the Mansion—including the Cupola Tower. Adam Erby was extremely knowledgeable of the estates, and even brought the cohort down around to Washington’s tomb site and the beautiful memorial in memory of the enslaved folks who ran the grounds.
We ended the day watching an extremely serious and appropriate feature film: National Treasure 2.
That was just the start of an amazing week. Throughout the week, we met with several amazing individuals. Dr. Doug Bradburn, Founding Director, took us on a tour of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. He showed us some of the amazing busts and spaces in the museums. The most exciting part, though, was when he showed us around the vault. The vault is where many of the precious original George Washington documents are stored.
That evening, Dean Norton, Director of Horticulture, took us on a tour of the Mount Vernon Estate Landscape. It was a fantastic evening! He showed us some of the beautiful agriculture cultivated onsite, drove us around on a tractor, took us out on the Potomac River to view the Mansion from the rear, and even gave us a few lessons on fishing. Capping off the evening, we had Popeyes for dinner with homemade ice cream for dessert.
Following up on Dean Norton’s adventure, we were given a tour of the Gristmill and Distillery at Mount Vernon.
The rest of the week was one big blur. As a group we talked with former U.S. Senator John Warner, dined with former White House Social Secretary Lea Berman, explored our strengths with Gallup Managing Partner Jon Clifton, and became acquainted with our individual summer mentors. Ending the week, we were able to hear from Dave Rubenstein—philanthropist and funder or our fellowship. His generosity has afforded us this opportunity.
What I remember most from this week was the time we spent together as a group of peers on the Piazza. Because we were living on the estate, we had off-hours access to the grounds. And we took advantage of them. Early one morning, we woke up at 5am to see the sunrise over the Potomac. Very late one evening, we stayed up to play Mafia under the moonlight. Yes, we played Mafia on the Piazza.