During the month of August and September, Monument Policy hosts a student from England to observe the American political process and learn about our business. The Fellows program serves an important role here at Monument and we are excited to introdcue you to our 2017 Exeter Student: Emily Cleaton.

Hometown: Rugby, England (birthplace of the sport!)
College: University of Oxford, Exeter college
Degree pursuing: LAW

What got you interested in politics?

As a child I developed an attachment to the cartoons and puzzles page in the newspaper. Somewhere between following the adventures of Snoopy and butchering many a Sudoku, I began to notice the political cartoons, and attempted to understand these too. Aged around 6, although I didn’t fully grasp the satirical inspiration that enlarged Tony Blair’s nose (the Iraq war intelligence scandal), or depicted Margaret Thatcher as the devil (her policies), I was amazed to discover that these were real-life people. Spurred-on by trying to understand these cartoons, I badgered my parents with incessant questions and at an early age built up a general, albeit partisan view of who was in charge, what they were doing and what was wrong with it.

As I grew older I remained interested and observed the news keenly. Political ‘discussions’ with my Dad, in which he’d say things like “Look, the fact is…” followed by a purely subjective statement, taught me the power of opinions, and the importance of deciding what you think.

More recently, interning with my local Member of Parliament and undertaking casework illustrated how elected office enables you to help others, from getting potholes fixed to securing funding for under-performing schools.

What is your favorite Monument in Washington D.C.?

It’s hard to pick just one, and the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument are particularly striking, but I think my personal favorite is the Korean War Memorial. The use of the reflecting wall to mirror the 19 statues and commemorate the 38 months the war lasted is a clever use of space, and the likeness of the physical sculptures is incredibly moving. At the top corner of the memorial are inscribed the words “freedom is not free”, a pretty poignant sentiment.

If you could check one thing off your bucket list what would it be?

This is a hard question! I just googled “good bucket list ideas” for inspiration and they ranged from going swimming with sharks to ‘getting in the habit of drinking green tea regularly’; I think mine is more towards the latter end of the spectrum. I’d love to become fluent in a different language, like an alarming number of Brits I’ve never shown any great interest in learning anything other than English. Meeting students at University who are undertaking degrees in their second language has shown me I have no excuse!

What is your favorite book?

This changes all the time, I think anything by Kazuo Ishiguro is great “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day” are beautiful, but maybe too haunting to be favorites. I grew up reading the Harry Potter’s, easily 9 or 10 times over, so by sheer number-of-times-read I think they qualify. However, at the moment I think my favorite is “When Breath Becomes Air”, by Paul Kalanithi, a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer. His reflections on medical school, notable surgeries and memorable patients turn to his transition from doctor to patient, and how fragile life really is. A memorable and life affirming book I’d recommend to anyone.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Achieving my black-belt in Tang Soo Do is something I am really proud of. I’m definitely not a natural athlete and transpired to be notably uncoordinated – I even had to label my boxing gloves as I couldn’t remember which was left and which was right- but I loved the training so much and threw myself in to as many classes and training varieties as I could. Passing my grading after five years of training taught me that hard work can make almost anything possible!