Prabhakar Bagchand received word that he had been selected as a Legislative Fellow while enjoying the beauty of a tea plantation in far eastern Nepal.
“I have always envisioned setting foot on American soil and learning about America firsthand,” says Prabhakar. “The America I know, I learned from books and what Hollywood portrays in movies and magazines. I picture it as a land of plenty, freedom, peace and justice. Finally, I will be able to experience it firsthand.”
Prabhakar touched down in Washington D.C. and was received at the airport with a smile and a warm hug.
“For the next three days, 30 other fellows from around the world and I were taken to the Russell Senate Office building on Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Square memorial, and many other places around Washington, D.C.,” says Prabhakar.
After the orientation in Washington, Prabhakar headed to Kansas City.
“My fellowship included internships in the Office of Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and Kevin Yoder. The various meetings introduced me to a variety of people and organizations that work on leadership development, law, and justice. Visits to the Federal Court helped me understand the judicial system and how the witness protection system works in the U.S. At El Centro, an NGO working for immigrants mainly in the Hispanic community, I learned about immigration and its impact on America.”
Although he enjoyed it, Prabhakar did not spend all his time in America learning the inner workings of American policy. That is why when it came to getting to know his host family, he was delighted by their show of hospitality and good will.
“I was welcomed by a few host families during this program, all who invited me into their homes for dinner or to join in family activities. I was told to "make myself at home," recalls Prabhakar. “It was nice to be treated as an honored guest, but one of the highest compliments I received from them is that they treated me like a member of their family. I was given the "freedom of the house" to do what I wanted to "raid the refrigerator" on my own, or to have some quiet time alone. Christine Hughes was my first host and made me feel right at home. I admire her for her generosity, kindness and extraordinary hospitality.”
After spending a week in New York City, Prabhakar returned to Nepal with a renewed understanding of what it means to be an American.
“I now realize that America is a robust society; where a nobody can be a somebody,” says Prabhakar. “I have fallen in love with the Bill of Rights and regard it as the noblest document ever written to define the limits of the government. I love the concepts of free speech, absolute privacy and religious freedom embodied in American traditions and the Constitution. I love the rule of law – the right of accused persons to confront their accusers, the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, the right to refuse admission to government officials wanting to enter your home or office.”
“I know that like any other country, America is not a perfect world. A current economic slowdown, debt crisis, and high unemployment prove this country has its own problems. But the rule of law and civic responsibility shown by Americans; their ability to achieve greater things; and their unconditional love for their country, shows that the United States truly is the land of the proud and free.”