Reflections of a Summer Intern

Editor’s Note: Heather Adkins, a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University, was our 2012 Schuyler L. and Yvonne Moore Intern. She stayed busy, processing the Richard L. “Dixie” Walker Papers, the John Spratt Campaign Records, and the Bernard Manning Papers, and digitizing a small segment of the Walker Papers. Visit Richard L. Walker: In His Own Words to see these documents and check out her blog post announcing the opening of the Walker Papers. We asked her to reflect on her internship and what she learned this summer. Here’s what she had to say:
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Before beginning this internship, I knew nothing about Dixie Walker. Processing his papers was like having a conversation with him: I found out about his career as the U.S. Ambassador to Korea and as a professor of international studies, learned of his views on diplomacy and culture, and, to some extent, got to know his family and friends. The records told me about him through correspondence, publications, and speeches.

Heather processing the the Walker Papers

What I found most fascinating about the Walker Papers was the way Walker’s academic convictions permeated every part of his life. He believed that cultural understanding was essential to international relations, particularly in the Far East. His early writings (late 1940s-early 1960s) suggest that understanding individual communist countries and their culture would aid in diplomacy. When he served as Ambassador to Korea (1981-1986), Walker practiced this “cultural diplomacy,” and was commended for it. In 1983, President Reagan said, “You have turned quiet diplomacy into an art form, and your actions have improved bilateral relations by serving the interests of both the U.S. and ROK.”

Perhaps even stronger than Walker’s views on cultural understanding was his belief that educators have the responsibility to help students recognize, appreciate, and learn about different cultures. Walker did this for nearly five decades of teaching in numerous universities around the world. By his death in 2003, he was considered by many to be the foremost expert on Asia studies in the last half of the 20th Century.

Working at SCPC, and in particular with the Walker Papers, has been a privilege. Walker was an incredible public servant and it was an honor to process his collection. The internship as a whole was a wonderful experience and a great stepping stone towards my future in the archival profession.

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