Dawn or Dusk?

Washington DC

Duration 7 days
Suggested group size 12 - 100 students / 2-10 Envoys Field Staff
Suggested ages 12 - 18
Experience Democracy & Civic Dialogue


Democracy: Dawn or Dusk?


Washington, DC, is the national epicenter of democracy — both its founding institutions as well as its societal resources for education and civic engagement. This program first explores the National Mall and its revered monuments and later moves away from the Mall and its tourists focusing on our democracy’s missteps and successes. Students meet local leaders, residents, and immerse within organizations and communities seeking to uphold our foundational promises of equality and justice.

“In the heart of democracy, where monuments speak of freedom's journey, Washington DC stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of a nation.“


“"Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" John F Kennedy“


Impact Statement Everywhere we go, we carry a promise – to engage with respect, act with purpose, and leave a positive imprint. As envoys of our journey is more than travel; Our footprint is light, but our impact is profound, creating bridges of cooperation and mutual growth across the globe.

Day 1

We arrive in Washington DC, settle in and enjoy lunch before engaging in community-building activities. In the afternoon, we visit the National Archives to view foundational documents. The evening features a delightful dinner in Georgetown, followed by a Bill of Obligations activity at the hotel.

Day 2

In the morning, we explore the National Mall. Teams receive a "Monumental Missions" book with challenges focused on historical legacies, gender representation, security concerns, and wealth disparities. In the evening, teams develop a 'pitch' for a new monument or memorial on the National Mall.

Day 3

We visit the Supreme Court, exploring its majestic size and importance as an independent branch of government. Next, a guided tour of the US Capitol includes a reflection on the January 6th insurrection. The day ends at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall.

Day 4

Guided by JFK's call to "ask what you can do for your country," students explore obligations through a 'dependency webs' exercise. They visit the National Coalition for the Homeless where we learn about their work. In the afternoon, we do a public art tour in the U Street neighborhood.

Day 5

Focusing on civic dialogue and its crucial role in democracy students lead and participate in two dialogues on tough issues using a protocol from Essential Partners. We later unwind with games on the mall. Midway through the program, we reflect on our progress and the journey ahead.

Day 6

After careful research and prep, small groups of students lead their peers through different sites, memorials, and institutions, serving as guides for each other. Our day ends with a program reflection workshop so students can process their experiences and later share their learnings and growth.

Day 7

In the morning, depending on flight departure time, we either have time for a Smithsonian Museum choice opportunity for students, or we head wrap things up after breakfast and complete our program closing and program evaluations, before transferring to the airport.

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Lenses of Inquiry



Polarization in any modern society is not only to be expected, it is indicative of a healthy democracy. Difference and disagreement are necessary for societies. However, polarization in the United States has become extreme. How do we re-engage with each other? How do we connect across difference?


Modern Missteps:

Typical school trips to Washington, DC centralize around students’ exploration of our founding democratic ideals and historic sites. Envoys DC programs also visit these sites yet consider the modern missteps where these ideals have failed. Who do our institutions serve well, and who is left out?


Civic Dialogue

Civic engagement is crucial amid the decline in American civic discourse. Using tools from Essential Partners, students practice structured, respectful dialogue. The focus is on listening and choosing curiosity over judgment, fostering understanding in a polarized era.


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