Summer break ended a few days ago and so school has once again begun. However, today’s post is not about what high school is like or anything. Instead, I’m talking about my very last summer trip of the year.
Our trip included staying in D.C. and taking a tour of the White House as well as the Capitol building. Unfortunately, due to – I’m assuming- the weather accident with lightning in front of the White House, our White House tour was rescheduled to a later date we already had plans for. To sum it up, we could not visit the White House. We could see it from a barricade and see its white exterior illuminate the dark night sky, but we couldn’t go inside and tour the actual building.
Apart from that, we did get to tour the Capitol – which I am extremely grateful for- as well as visit many other places such as the Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, and the National Museum of American History. This post is about what D.C. was like, and what I thought of it.
If you don’t know what it’s about I’ll summarize really quickly. The West Wing is a political drama series on how fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet and his presidential advisers and staffers try to run the country. It shows different political scenarios such as working through two presidential terms, political threats, scandals, other possible scenarios, and even the election race to succeed President Bartlet. I’ve always loved The West Wing and it’s one of the things that have inspired me to become a lawyer or just someone who works in the political field one day. I dreamed of one day working in the West Wing or even in D.C. and that still remains as one of my goals for the future.
Another reason for wanting to visit D.C. was because I had taken U.S. History this year and was really interested in the subject. After learning about the struggles our founding fathers went through to create this government simply for the people, I wanted to see the buildings where the same principles are applied today, 300 years later. I think because of taking that course, I had become more appreciative of not only my country but also for what it was established on. That made me more perceptive towards what we saw, and also allowed me to make better connections to what I learned. Side note: I now cry when I hear the national anthem. I- Yeah. Oh the things one history class has done to me. I mean it’s not bad. I think it’s a good thing that I actually know more about my country and I really appreciate the principles for what it was built on as well as am proud as to how we got this far. If I cry by remembering all that then so be it.
Enough about how I cry during the national anthem. Let’s actually get into the overview now.
Honestly I’m not sure what I was expecting from D.C. Whenever I hear about it I always imagine the Capitol and White House only some distance from each other and then there are a bunch of other government buildings and monuments there as well. It is like that but also different. For example, I did not expect to be able to calmly take a walk under the shade of huge trees while drinking a slushy right next to the Department of Justice. I could just walk by and wave up at the windows and be like, “Oh hello Attorney General Garland, how are you today?” I doubt that’s even possible and I would look like an absolute fool, but the idea does amuse me. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to seem disrespectful towards a government official or the employees. I’m just saying it was really unexpected to be able to walk right next to such an important building as if it was normal.
|Me standing in front of the
Department of Justice
Apart from D.C. being full of government buildings and monuments and museums, it does have a bit of life to it. We always think of these officials as powerful and they are always making decisions that we either do or don’t agree with when they are also human like us. People in D.C. may be officials or employees but they also have normal lives. They also like minimal spice Indian food and Starbucks as well. *Ahem*
First let’s talk about the Capitol tour. Huge thank you to Senator Cornyn for getting us the opportunity for this tour as well as having one of his staffers guide us around. I would say it was different from my expectations. From a Capitol tour, I was expecting maybe how the Senate or House works and what their daily basis is. That was what a Capitol tour first meant to me. Instead, we got a building tour. We learned about the architecture of the Capitol, the statues that decorate the interior, background to the many murals and paintings, as well as how different events in history have shaped it to how it is today. I’d say I was more relieved. I was expected to ask questions during the tour and I was extremely nervous on what to ask or share an insight if it was on how Congress worked. I do know how it works, but I was worried that the amount I knew wouldn’t be enough or I may ask something stupid or say something incorrect. I found the tour guide extremely impressive and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of her. I also felt this sort of pressure to impress her and ask really high level questions. I think that’s why I felt so nervous to ask a question at the beginning. But throughout the tour that pressure slowly reduced and it was easier to do so. I found myself wanting to know more and tried to let that fear go. I still do think I could have asked better questions and I am disappointed at myself for not doing so. But I am happy that I was able to gather the courage to do so.
The Capitol is absolutely beautiful. I love how everything ties back to history. It’s like the Capitol is a sort of temple to thank our founding fathers and historical figures for the impact in our country. Like, there’s George Washington almost everywhere. Statues, murals, paintings, etc. The more I think about it it does feel like a temple. Every small detail is built based on how our country started to grow, bad or good. There’s not much from current events except for some women’s rights statues and such. Everything else is designed with the idea of kind of thanking the things that made our country how it is today. For example, there are American tobacco plants carved all over the building. Tobacco was a major cash crop that was a driving factor in the economy as well as what increased the need for slavery. In the Rotunda, there’s a mural that shows everything from Columbus up to the Gold Rush. In the dome of the Capitol there is a fresco called The Apotheosis of Washington that shows George Washington becoming a god or apotheosis as he was the first U.S. president and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. I honestly think that’s kind of motivating. Everyday Senators and members of the House will come for work and they see these statues or paintings of President Washington and decide to work hard for the country. Maybe not everyone would think that way, but I think it would be a huge honor to do so. I mean, President Washington was the precedent president. He was the example of what a president should do for future presidents to come. To be able to work everyday for this country that he first led and helped fight for, now that would be motivating.
|The Apotheosis of Washington
I’ve said this many times, but I will state it one last time. In my opinion, I think the Capitol is designed like a place of gratitude and honor towards not only President Washington, but also many important figures who have shaped our country. President Lincoln, General Ulysses Grant, Sam Houston, etc. By this breach of the Capitol, not only are we disrespecting the building and work space, but also the grounds on which our country first started developing. President Washington gave a farewell address at the end of his presidency. In that address was one request for many others to not form political parties as he was afraid it would divide our nation further. Despite that request, we immediately split into two parties after he stepped down, and look how that has gotten to today.
It’s almost embarrassing to see the results of something our first president warned us about, in front of something that respects and thanks him. It’s embarrassing to think our own people would do such a thing over something small.
|Actual picture of me at the back of the Capitol.
|Helen Keller from Alabama
|King Kamehameha from Hawaii
|Me sitting in front of
Lincoln’s second Inaugural Speech
|A little something I found amusing
|The original Star Spangled Banner
|My parents and I outside the
Star Spangled Banner exhibit.