Window on Washington Week: The Places You Will Go

Are you preparing to apply for the 57th Annual United States Senate Youth Program? During the course of seven days, delegates to Washington Week are immersed in the nation’s capital – its history, leaders, culture and architectural splendor. As delegates hear from America’s most distinguished public servants, they incorporate memorable visits to sites such as the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, Library of Congress, the Senate Gallery, the State Department, and iconic monuments. Our latest blog highlights the 2018 delegates’ reflections on Washington Week and the famous sites they visited, shared in essays written after returning home.  We hope you gain insight into an experience that may be the right one for you!

Delegates visiting the Lincoln Memorial

In Washington, I was able to visit one of my heroes’ memorial, President Abraham Lincoln. Written in strong, grand letters, the Gettysburg Address was etched into the side of the left wall. My favorite quote from that document is, “Government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from this Earth.” After I came back to my tiny, unassuming, often unimportant small town in Alaska, halfway across the world from Washington, I realized the significance of this quote. I realized that my proximity to our nation’s capital had nothing to do with its accessibility. Our government works for the immigrant, the public school teacher, and the student all the way in Unalaska, Alaska. Politics is for everyone, and must be forever.

Brian Conwell, AK – 2018

Delegates examining the founding documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives

My favorite moment from Washington Week was the fabulous evening my fellow delegates and I spent at the National Archives. We were able to explore America’s founding documents and artifacts; however, the catch is that we were the only ones in the building ― it was closed to the rest of the public! Absorbing America’s most intimate documents in solidarity with my fellow delegates was profound, not to mention the tremendous dinner mere yards away from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, topped with a speech by Senator King.

Joseph Derrico, OH – 2018

Delegates gathering outside the United States Supreme Court ahead of meeting with Associate Justice Gorsuch

One of my favorite experiences of the week was at the Supreme Court of the United States. Sitting in the Supreme Court chambers is something that I will never forget. I was in the same room where segregation was ruled unconstitutional in schools, where the outcome of the 2000 election was decided, and where same-sex marriage was made available in all 50 states. Such a historic occasion was matched by a justice who cared a lot about history. Justice Gorsuch’s words of wisdom will be one of the many things I remember about Washington Week. He advised us to be civil with one another and be deliberate in what we want to do. Talking to Justice Gorsuch about everything from constitutional interpretation to Charles Dickens allowed me to understand that many of the officials in the government are people just like the rest of us.

James Gulick, IL – 2018

Delegates visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Overall the week was full of experiences that left me speechless and made me think about what it truly means to be an American. Our visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier made me think about the sacrifices that were made for our country by the men and women who fought so that we could live freely and pursue our dreams. Visiting the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials made me realize how our freedom truly isn’t free. Listening to Senate Historian Betty Koed made me realize that we can shape history. “History is made when ordinary men and women strive to pursue something extraordinary,” and Senator Tim Scott reminded us that, “Failure is not fatal if you refuse to quit.”

Hali Kapperud, MT — 2018

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington Cemetery

The visit started off with a solemn changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. I have only ever watched this activity from the side, so being allowed a view of this historic and symbolic ceremony head-on was an experience in itself. I was amazed how at this ceremony we, as one, reflected in thanks on the brave men and women who daily give their lives selflessly so that we can debate whatever matters we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want, with no fear of being silenced.

Andrew Mangan, NY –  2018

Delegates dining in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room and meeting with State Department officials.

My most memorable experience was dining with the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Francisco Palmieri, in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the Department of State. The Benjamin Franklin Room is a snapshot of history. The room looks exactly the way I would envision an 18th century dining room:  the gold details on the walls, the American seal on the ceiling, and the many chandeliers that set a very formal tone. In addition to the 18th century décor, the amount of history in that room was astonishing. The room itself is where U.S. officials have hosted diplomats from across the world for decades and crafted international deals.  Lastly, hearing Mr. Palmieri speak about his efforts in helping Latin American citizens inspired me.

Jamie Roa, MD – 2018

© Photos by Erin Lubin and Jakub Mosur