By: Nikkya Taliaferro

Despite only being a freshman at Howard University, I know that Dr. Norman Sandridge’s “Special Topics in American Democracy” class will be one of the most influential classes in my academic career. I have not only made amazing connections and friendships with my classmates, but also gained a new perspective about the future of our democracy. The primary text studied in this class, Congressman Jamie Raskin’s 2022 memoir, Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, discusses themes of trauma, resiliency, and the dedication of Americans to sustain or destroy our democracy. Throughout the semester, we worked to expand on these ideas and learned to connect them to our lives through in-class discussions and journal entries discussing our leadership development. I worked to develop many aspects of my leadership by taking advantage of leadership opportunities in internships or clubs throughout Howard University and working better with others to problem solve and gain new perspectives and ideas.

The biggest lesson that I learned throughout this course is that our democracy relies on all Americans to work to improve our current conditions and recognize that our democracy must be our priority to sustain or it will become at risk. This lesson is emphasized throughout the book when Raskin (1) highlights different people that worked beside him to hold accountable January 6 insurrectionists looking to destroy our democracy and (2) models how big of a role everyday Americans can play in our country. This lesson was also demonstrated in our end of year projects that centered around improving an aspect of our democracy. My project focused on diversifying our democracy by improving diversity initiatives throughout our education system. These initiatives, ideally, would encourage students to pursue higher education and allow more underprivileged students to be empowered to pursue jobs in fields like politics and law. My peers’ projects made me feel confident in the future of our democracy and inspired to continue working towards bettering our nation. After the semester ended, I had the opportunity to continue working on improving our democracy by discussing with military professionals at the Boys and Girls Club of Military Leadership Institute in Chicago how students can be better supported throughout high school and college.

Without the American Democracy course, I would not have considered how I can personally play a part in a better democracy and how I can improve my leadership abilities. 

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