While thumbing the edges of my ticket, I stared at the mysterious dark figures surrounding me in line. I noticed the usual suspects, couples holding hands, loud teens, professional businessmen, and sleepy children. Just as I began to ponder where each individual person was headed, a bright light shined down the tunnel. With a rattle and groan, the subway arrived to take passengers traveling through to their destinations. The MetroRail is modern and the recommended way for tourists, like my classmates and myself, to get around. It was especially convenient that our hotel, the Key Bridge Marriot (located in Arlington, Virginia), was within walking distance from a station.
The bus came roaring to a halt at our first stop, Federal Triangle. Upon arriving at our destination, we inserted our tickets into the slot on the faregate and started toward the White House for our early morning tour (requests for tours must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance). After getting passed intense security, we entered the White House through a side entrance. The walls were lined with pictures of the royal family, past presidents, and President Obama and his family. We were able to see the rooms in which the president and his family commonly entertain in, excluding the Diplomatic Reception Room, where an interview was being conducted. After the tour, we stopped by the White House Visitor Center that features many aspects of the White House, including its architecture, furnishings, first families, social events, and relations with the press and world leaders. After quickly looking around, we headed back to the metro station and to our next destination.
The subway drew to a halt at the Smithsonian stop. As we walked into the Natural History Smithsonian, the first thing we were struck by was the warm blast of air that was a stark contrast to the icy wind outside. Once we got over our sudden surprise, we were able to take in the Smithsonian. This museum is 3 stories high and filled with massive galleries that lead to more galleries. We saw the Hope Diamond and fossils that dated before the dinosaurs! Next we scampered over to the American History Smithsonian, where you could see the original Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Elvis’s Hawaiian shirt, Teddy Roosevelt’s first “Teddy Bear”, and Abe Lincoln’s hat. From Pop Culture to the Civil War, this museum showed how America began and the current conditions of our country.
After perusing the museum, we quickly hopped back on the metro and exited toward Capitol South. We neared the capitol and once we got past security and emptied all the food from our bags, we were allowed inside. Our group was ushered into a large projection room where we were shown a film that illustrated how this country established a new form of government and highlighted the vital role that Congress plays in the daily lives of Americans. We were then taken on a tour of the historical landmark. We followed our tour guide as she showed us the different rooms, artwork, and even the rotunda (the circular room under the dome of the Capital). The rotunda was filled with amazing artwork, statues, and figureheads. Once our tour was over, it was off to the upper level gift shop where many of my fellow classmates bought pocket constitutions, which made for excellent souvenirs. With one last trip on the metro, we got off at Rosslyn and walked back to our hotel, exhausted from our adventurous day. By using Washington DC as a living classroom, I was able to experience democracy in action. While exploring famous monuments and memorials and meeting experts in Government, I learned firsthand the role that each ordinary citizen plays in democracy.
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