Memorial Day

As you might guess, Memorial Day brings many festivities in Washington DC. On Sunday was the nationally televised Memorial Day Concert on the Capitol lawn (which I didn’t attend because of bad weather) and on Monday there was the famous wreath-laying at Arlington Cemetery and the National Memorial Day Parade. Since the parade was literally down the street from me I couldn’t help but wander over and check it out.

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Flag at the start of the parade!

We ended up finding the perfect spot along the street right behind the performance area. Not only did we see the parade participants walk right, but were able to see the (backside of) the musical guests as well! The parade consisted of MANY high school marching bands, but also tributes to every American-fought war from the Revolution to Desert Storm. For the historical displays, some people even dressed up like famous figures (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc.)! Since this event was also live broadcast, I might have even been on TV for a split second!

I am very glad I could spend a Memorial Day in Washington DC. It was a day to remember and just seemed more relevant here for some reason.

Things wrap up this week and I will be headed back to Oregon on Sunday. I can hardly believe. Time flew by, but I also feel a certain connection to this place. Life has mysterious ways.

Final Weekend!

Well, the time has finally come when I can start counting down my days left in DC on one hand! Though I am surely in denial, I have even managed to start filling my suitcases again. As I was out and about I already started to miss the city bustling with tourists and politicos alike. Come this weekend there were still several items left on my “must-do” in DC list. I was able to knock out a few of them, including the National Portrait Gallery.

I truly think of the National Portrait Gallery as a hidden treasure  Smithsonian. Off the beaten path, near Chinatown, it really is a gem of a museum. The building itself actually dates back to 1836, where it was the grand home of the US Patent Office. The Great Hall on the third floor hosted Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural and it was used as the Red Cross base of Clara Barton during the Civil War. The art it chiefly contains, American portraits, are simple, but classic. The Presidential exhibit features several of the classics (at least those not in the White House) and there is also a wealth of other traditional and modern American works.

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A recognizable portrait

Other items off the checklist included visiting the American Indian Museum (a nice air-conditioned break from the scorcher of a weekend) and having a famous “adult” milkshake at Ted’s Bulletin Restaurant. Most importantly I am grateful to have spent a final weekend with intern and TMH friends who have made my entire time worthwhile.

Out with the old, in with the new!

This is week marked a pretty big turning point for action on the hill: the summer interns have arrived. Because of the typical inconvenience of taking time off school to do an internship, many students decide to come out in the summer instead. While this is great in ensuring that there are extra hands on deck for the summer rush of tours and projects, it unfortunately is a pretty slow time for Congress. Especially during a campaign year, members spend most of July and August back in their home district. Nevertheless, the influx of fresh faces has put my own experience in perspective as I finish up my internship next week.

For all of you new hill interns, or those still thinking about whether or not to apply, here is a list of things I wish I would have known at the start of my internship.

  • Getting lost and asking for directions is not bad! The Capitol is huge and only now do I feel like I know my way around the House side. Capitol Police and others are always happy to point you the right way!
  • Mistakes will be made. Working in a high-level office demands a high level of precision and sometimes you’ve just got to learn by trial and error.
  • Connect with everyone! You never know when someone might pop back into your life so take advantage of interns and staffers from an assortment of backgrounds.
  • Go to everything. There is so much opportunity at the Capitol, so take advantage. I have been able to meet movie stars, activists, politicians and all sorts of  movers and shakers at briefings and hearings.
  • Do what you enjoy and don’t get bored. Even when doing daily office tasks there is so much to absorb about policy, professionalism and U.S. politics. Never accept a dull moment!

Only one more week of work (and a short one because of the holiday) and I’m done! I can hardly believe it!

Arlington on a Rainy Day

It’s May 22nd and somehow it has never really stopped raining here. I guess I should have anticipated a much different climate than back in Oregon, but I thought there would be a little bit of sunshine in the spring. Today I had planned to go out with a friend and run to Arlington Cemetery. It has just dawned on me in the past few days that I am only here for two more weeks and need to get to everything on my DC bucket list, so I decided to get two birds with one stone and combine exercise with tourism.

We were drenched by the time we got over the bridge from the Lincoln Memorial and to the entrance to Arlington. As we walked up the rolling hills my breath was taken away by

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

the endless sight of white marble headstones. The cemetery itself is over 600 acres, yet so much of the space is already taken up. Both sad and amazing. We followed the signs to one
of the important memorials, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Just as we arrived, three soldiers began a changing of the guard ceremony which we watched with the large gathered crowd. To be a tomb guard is one of the highest honors you can receive in the Army and is the  second least awarded medal. We then wandered our way through dozens of hallowing memorials and the J.F.K. gravesite. We could have walked for hours longer, but the wind chill and aching muscles sent us running back towards DC.

Arlington truly was an honor to behold and I am glad I made the (wet) journey out there.

 

White House!

Yesterday I FINALLY went on a White House tour! Of course the only available time slot was 8:00am on a Saturday. Supposedly the White House is the number one requested tour in DC, and I’m not going to say it was a let-down, but having been there for an event a year and a half ago, not much has changed. On Saturday morning I got myself self up and out the door with my ticket and trusted Columbia rain jacket. Little did I know it was absolutely pouring outside. We (me and my other intern friend) waited outside security and exchanged an umbrella for several minutes before beginning the security process. They are certainly thorough (as you hope they would be) with the screening over there; you have to show your ID twice as well as be sniffed by dogs and walk through a metal detector.

When we got inside I stripped off my sopping jacket and we began our self-guided tour through the East Wing. Since the White House is obviously still often used for events and meetings, there were no plaque descriptions like an ordinary museum, they actually encourage you to ask the Secret Service standing guard any questions you may have about the space.

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Red Room in the White House

We were able to walk through the ornate Yellow, Green, Blue, and Red rooms, as well as the State Dining Room. What the two of us really wanted to see were the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny, but it being a rainy Saturday morning we figured they were still cuddling in bed with the First Family.

Claire

Dumbarton Oaks

Today I was yearning for adventure. After being cooped up with a spring allergies for the last few days I needed to get out, stretch my legs, and explore! I decided that I would walk up to Dupont Circle, a DC classic that I hadn’t been to on this trip. I leisurely made my way over, making a stop at the Postal Museum (highly recommended) and of course to grab a coffee. When I got to Dupont, I looked at the trusted Google Maps on my phone. Where would I go next? As I scrolled along DC’s linear streets, I noticed Dumbarton Gardens; I think someone told me about that once before. Serendipitously, I decided to try it out. It was a beautiful day anyway.

I walked and walked as modern concrete turned into classically whimsical brick and stone. The houses in this neighborhood were unique and of colonial style. Certainly unlike the packed townhouses around Capitol Hill, these were actual houses with beautifully kept roses and leafy trees.

When I arrived at Dumbarton, I first entered the museum portion, a gorgeous red-brick home with a priceless amount of art and history. I then wandered around the corner of the estate to find the garden museum entrance. I do not exaggerate when I say that this is now

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Stunning Irises and garden houses

probably one of my favorites places in DC. The fifty-three acre property is meticulously taken care of and preserved in a classic 1920’s style. I strolled through the orangery, lilac circle, and rose garden, admiring the garden’s ability to make just about anyone feel absolutely transcendent. Though I was in the midst of a city, the hidden benches winding brick paths of Dumbarton were blissfully silent.

Though it is a journey to get out to the gardens, (there is no nearby public transport) I whole-heartedly recommend visiting Dumbarton Gardens and the beautiful brick streets of northern Georgetown on your next visit to DC.

 

Symphony

Before I left for DC I received a very special present from my grandmother, some money to help buy a ticket to a Kennedy Center show. In my previous trips to DC I had always wanted to visit the Kennedy Center, its ominous presence bridging the Potomac River to the monuments on the National Mall. After spending a good chunk of time browsing the web for shows, I decided to call the Kennedy Center to see how they recommend finding tickets for a good deal. It was on the phone where I found out about the MyTix program, which allows 18-30 year-olds to purchase select tickets for a VERY discounted price. I was in.

On Friday night I made my way over to the performance, the National Symphony Orchestra. As a musician and orchestra member myself, I was overjoyed when I found my seat seven rows from the front; the Concert Hall itself must have been at least 200 ft. deep with almost 2,500 seats. The rest of the Kennedy Center was equally as breath-taking. Pre-show, people whizzed around to find which theater they were in as others lounged on the patio, dressed to the nines and sipping wine as the sun set over the Potomac.

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Pretty good seat!

When the performance was about to begin I also noticed that the symphony was playing a piece I was familiar with (having played it last year), the Vaughn Williams Symphony No. 4, in addition to the virtuosic Elgar Cello Concerto.

Though I was on my own, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and the moving performance by cellist Alban Gerhardt. Being so close to the stage, I almost felt as if I was sitting with the musicians, a comforting thought. The Kennedy Center and the National Symphony did not disappoint and thank you Granny Kaye for the inspiration and gift!

Claire