Isabel Lewis Online Editor
On Tuesday, September 24, the students in the Quinn-Ferguson Honors Seminar boarded a small, yellow school bus, eager to start three days of listening to some of the most influential people in politics, business, and the world today. The class, traveling with teachers Allison Stephens and John David Bennett, headed to the Atlantic Festival in Washington D.C.
The Atlantic Festival is an event run by The Atlantic Magazine that brings speakers to Washington D.C. to discuss problems and developments facing the world. Stephens, teacher of Quinn-Ferg, said that she takes the group “to give them an opportunity to connect with some of the most pressing issues of the day and to hear from important political and business thinkers.” She added, “The trip sets a high bar for the students of the class, challenging them to ask critical questions and pay attention to topics on which they will need to have opinions when they reach adulthood.”
In past years, speakers included Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton. This year, the class was lucky enough to see an abundance of remarkable people, including Mitt Romney, Bob Iger, Yo-Yo Ma, Jim Mattis, and Nancy Pelosi.
On the first day of the festival, the audience had the privilege of seeing Nancy Pelosi speak just an hour after she met with the Democratic caucus on the impeachment of the president of the United States Donald Trump. Stephens said, “Hearing from Nancy Pelosi before she gave her press conference launching the impeachment inquiry made us all feel like we were living history in real time.” All of the students that saw her recognized the historic nature of the moment. Madi Norris ‘21 said, “My favorite speaker was Nancy Pelosi because of her ability as a woman in politics but also because of how amazing it was to witness history right before our eyes.”
Other highlights from the festival were seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform on the cello accompanied by Chris Thile on the mandolin, Arnold Schwarzenegger discussing his new film about gerrymandering, Patrick O. Brown and Questlove talking about Impossible Foods Inc., a company that makes meat flavored food from plants, and Lori Gottlieb talking about her book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and her column in The Atlantic called “Dear Therapist.”
Mercersburg students were the youngest people attending the festival, making their experience even more unique. The crowds mostly consisted of journalists, business leaders, academics and policy planners. Being such a young group at this event demanded a new appreciation from the students. Kiersten Donnelly ‘21 said, “I actually feel like more people talked to me because I was young and they wanted to see why I was here.” Interestingly, more than three of the people that the Quinn-Ferg students met had a connection to Mercersburg.