Janelle Danielson: Passionate from miles away

I know I’m not the only one who hopes for a complimentary bump up to first class from the humble slums of economy. On this 12-hour flight from Auckland to LAX en route to D.C., was it finally going to happen? Almost! I was bumped up to the exit row with all the leg room I could ask for. I passed the time by phasing in and out of sleep after constantly readjusting my neck pillow, watching movies (Bay Watch, Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures) and mentally gearing up for the next 19 days. What were my expectations? What did I hope to get out of this experience beyond strengthening my self-confidence? If I see Trump, would taking a selfie mean betraying my morals and values?

We arrived at our home away from home around 2am, and at midday were up and off to do a walking tour to see Washington D.C.’s most well known monuments. A few initial observations: should you forget what country you’re in, don’t worry there’s an American flag outside every other house and storefront to remind you; Autumn in D.C. is hotter than Auckland’s Summer (which I wasn’t expecting and totally packed the wrong clothes); and everyone here walks with ambition and purpose toward either self service or serving their country.

Our tour-guide took us through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is made up of long, black, shiny Gabbro walls with the names of over 50,000 soldiers who fought and died. The thought provoking feature of this monument is that you see yourself reflected behind the names of the soldiers. Walking through, I thought about the conversations and intentions behind deciding the course of action that led to this; I began to think about the vast number of names on those walls and then of all those names who weren’t on there – from both sides; I thought about patriotism in the context of ‘passion’ and the blinding power 'passion' has to justify, inspire and drive action.


As promised, I ran up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial and shadow boxed like Rocky. Well kind of. I got stage fright, so it was more like a brisk walk up 4 steps follow by a right jab and front kick. Outside the Memorial, I revisited the concept of ‘passion’ as I looked out toward the Washington Monument, and stood in the same spot where Martin Luther King delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech. I soaked up the 30 seconds I had on that tile and thought about how ‘passion’ can offer courage, mobilise a marginalised community and catalyse change.

The World Bank’s twin goals to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity are causes to rally behind and be passionate about. I’d be interested to see whether those working toward achieving these goals are motivated by a moral duty or driven by the intellectual stimulus and career opportunities. D.C. is buzzing with passion in all its forms and it feels like something important is always going on. It’s infectious. I’ve talked a lot about pursuing my passion, being here feels like the start of rediscovering what that is and doing something about it.

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on October 5, 2017 and filed under World Bank / IMF 2017.