Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Washington D.C.

Last week, I took the kids to D.C. As mentioned before, we hit the major branches of government, landmarks, memorials and the zoo. We were very busy and crammed lots of experiences into three days--including swimming in the hotel pool. I'm still tired.

My overall impression was this: Solidity. The city is solid. A law on the books since Britain still viewed us as theirs, requires rock and other hard building materials due to fires set to the White House and Capital by the aforementioned former enemy. Ahem. It's a good law. The city has a permanence and beauty because of it.

D.C. is strikingly beautiful, more beautiful than I remembered. I was eight the last time I visited and two memories remain from that visit: Monticello and the Lincoln Memorial. My brother peed on the porch at Monticello causing my sister and I much amusement and my parents complete mortification. The Lincoln Memorial was huge. Who doesn't love Abraham Lincoln? And how could you forget the Lincoln Memorial?

My kids favorite spot echoed mine. They absolutely loved the Washington Monument, the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. We took it in at sunset. Grass and water and a balmy breeze served as the back-drop to these massive tributes to great men in addition to serving as baseball diamonds and football practice fields. The city is grand and eminently human at the same time.

The humanity mobs you immediately. We took the train from Philadelphia and ended in Union Station. People were purposeful and determined and seemed oblivious to the breath-taking architecture all around them. They marched to the cab or the Capital in their suits and talked about important things.

That first afternoon, we toured the Capital. Katie Weiss, a staff assistant to our representative Kevin Brady, made sure everything was perfect. She is a gem. In fact, the staff members of our Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson were incredibly helpful, too. I would very much recommend contacting your congress people to facilitate your Washington trip. When I saw the poor herded masses going on the public tours, I sighed in relief. The private tours are fabulous.

The interesting thing about all the buildings toured in Washington is that they are working, living monuments to the past, present and future. People are scurrying hither and thither debating in the halls. The history, the architecture, the tradition, the offices, the seniority, the squabbles, combine to form a hopeful soaring ideal anchored by a common-sense pragmatism.

Walking through the Senate side, I saw Carl Levin and this and that Senator. So many familiar, smiling (we were obviously not working there--with school in session, the kids were the only ones in the Capital and office buildings both times we visited) Senatorial and Congressmen faces. We met Senator Hutchinson. My son was overwhelmed with joy at meeting her and gave her a huge, unexpected, hug. She is a tiny wisp of a woman, dressed smartly in a sherbet suit surrounded by buzzing black-clad staffers. We were the last in line and she clearly had somewhere important to be, but the hug surprised and disarmed her and everyone laughed and cooed at the cuddle. Senators are people, too.

We received floor passes to sit in both the House and Senate galleries. On the house side, nothing much happened. On the Senate side, we had the opportunity to hear stringent debate on some bill where the Army would purchase farm land. We just missed a full vote on five different pieces of legislation, much to my son's dismay. We had to high tail it over to the White House to take the rare, coveted and to my daughter at least, disappointing tour.

The White House is first, and foremost, just a house. It is smaller than I'd imagined. It's not that small, but still, the furniture and room dimensions were designed around smaller people. It felt...intimate. My daughter was disgruntled because we couldn't see the President's bedroom and the other parts of the living quarters. And she was not pleased that she couldn't meet the President or First Lady. I told her to write a letter.

Perhaps the most amazing building in Washington is the Library of Congress. Words fail to describe the experience. Truly, it's magnificent. It is knowledge in architectural form. The Library holds up the intellectualism of freedom and democracy that goes back to Socrates.

Visiting D.C. renewed my faith in our institutions. It will last as long as I don't watch the news.

1 comment:

sandy said...

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