As a part of the Washington Campus experience, we spent a day at the U.S. Capitol Hill. During the day, we met with current and former congressmen and their congressional staff, attended a hearing for either the Senate or the House, and visited the Supreme Court. It was a long, but extremely powerful day. (I have weaved pictures in, so that you can see some of the places that we went… Thank you Lilia for letting me use some of your pictures!!)
Our day started by going to the U.S. Capitol, where we met with Ohio Congressmen Sherrod Brown, and a member of his congressional staff, Marjorie Glick. It was definitely both interesting and eye-opening. I think the most interesting educational lesson from the session was developing an understanding the divided nature of a Congressman’s position. On one hand, he has to serve his constituents in his home district, wherever that is – from Maryland, to Michigan, to California, and everything in between. However, they also have to be in Washington, so that they can make the right connections to get something done. Moreover, they have to be in proper balance, because by leaning to one side too much, will get you skewered by the other side.
I think the second most interesting education lesson was the importance of a good congressional staff. In fact, as a person who used to work in education, I often would get excited for students as they would describe their experiences working for their local congressperson. However, what I learned is that those college interns, who grow up to be congressional staffers, are often the most powerful people on the Hill. They actually control access to the respective congressperson, as they control his/her schedule.
We, then, were assigned to sit in on Senate Hearings during the day. I, unknowingly, actually chose the most important hearing of the day – the Super Committee’s first hearing regarding the budget. It was fascinating to hear each of the politicians say the same things, while sending subtle jabs at one another.
I think the final most powerful lesson from the entire day was the shared frustrations of those in Washington, with our governmental process. It was truly intriguing to get an insider’s perspective on just why Congress and President Obama aren’t able to get anything done. The reasons ranged from a lack of trust, to the lack of concern for re-election, even to an unwillingness to listen to another viewpoint from your own. In all cases, however, it was relieving to see that the Washington insiders that we met with were just as frustrated about the current events, as the American public seems to be.
But, I would be remiss, if I didn’t include some of the cool pictures from places we were able to see while at the Capitol. I have included pictures of the Supreme Court (outside, not inside – no pictures on the inside!!) , the original Liberty, which is outside of Union Station in Washington, D.C., and the World War II Memorial.