We rose bright and early on Thursday because we had an appointment to keep. We were scheduled to meet at the office of our congressional representative, Diane Black, and a member of her staff was going to lead us on a tour of the Capitol. After a short cab ride, we found ourselves at the entrance of one of the several congressional office buildings. I was expecting a long wait through security, but it was easier than I expected. There was a metal detector, but that was about it. Heck, I thought it was harder to get the elevator to work at our hotel.
From the office, we made our way through the tunnel to the Capitol. People were hustling and busting, and I realized something. The vast majority were in their 20s. I came to the conclusion that our government is actually run by young people who have the drive and energy to do it.
The tour of the Capitol was awesome and was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We saw scars from where the British burned the building during the War of 1812. We also saw a chandelier that began its life in a whorehouse before being moved to a Methodist church. Finally, it made its way full circle to our nation’s Capitol. It started in a place where they screw people for their money and ended up in the same type of place.
The old chambers of the House and Senate were also cool. I wanted to see the place where Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was almost beaten to death, and, suddenly, there we were.
The rotunda was interesting, but I really liked the statues scattered throughout the building. Each state submits two statues of people who are important to them. There were a lot of presidents, but there was also Helen Keller and a Native American leader. Tennessee’s entries are Andrew Jackson and John Sevier, two men who were not fond of each other.
However, there were also statues of other people who were important in Tennessee history.
Texas offered a statue of Sam Houston, who served as governor of Tennessee. Also, his first law office was in Lebanon.
Nebraska had a statue of William Jennings Bryan, who died in Tennessee after serving as the prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the visit was sitting in the gallery and watching the House of Representatives at work. As we looked down upon them, a few things went through my mind.
The room is a lot smaller than I imagined.
This is the room where Franklin Roosevelt made the “Infamy Speech.”
The House of Representatives is chaotic. We watched them take two votes, and hardly anyone was sitting down. They were walking around. They were standing in front of the speaker’s stand and talking. Kids were on the floor. Staff members were in and out. It was in complete disarray.
Most members of the House are anonymous. Most people probably know their own representative and others in their state, but that is about it. Heck, we sit close to the Kentucky border, and I could not tell you who any of their people are. Except for a few in leadership positions, no one really knows who these people are.
After watching them for a while, we decided to walk down the hall and watch the Senate. This is when we discovered why our government cannot get anything done. We had to leave our belongings in a room before going to the House chamber. However, we could not get to the Senate without first going back to get our stuff and turning it in again at the Senate holding room.
Understand? Me neither. We had to go back downstairs; get our stuff; turn it in at a different location; then go to the Senate. Ridiculous.
Then, we got to the Senate chamber and watched one guy give a speech to an empty room.
We left the Capitol and made our way to a sandwich shop for lunch. Then, we walked across the street to the Library of Congress.
Did I say walk? This is when we realized that walking to everything was not going to be as easy as we thought. The Mall is a huge expanse, and things that look close on the map may not be close in reality. With a busy morning behind us, we decided to take a cab to the hotel and rest up before dinner, which was at a cool South American restaurant. My wife and I both had mojitos with huge pieces of sugar cane sticking out of them. Nothing like a drink with a hunk of wood-like stuff.
After dinner, we walked to the Mall to see the monuments at night. We had heard that this is the best time to look at them. Several things stuck with me.
People play kickball and softball around the Washington Monument. I had never thought of it as a big recreational area, but that is what it is.
The World War II Memorial is amazing.
The water in front of the Lincoln Memorial is huge, but it is also where Captain America met Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Tons of people want to see the Lincoln Memorial and will risk their lives for it. We saw one woman wreck a Segway. However, I can understand why. It is an inspiring experience.
The Vietnam Memorial is behind a bathroom. We lost the people we were with when we thought they went to the bathroom. Actually, they were going to the Wall.
The Korean War Memorial is the one I most wanted to see, and I was not disappointed. Seeing the soldier statues glowing in the night was a haunting experience.
With that, we caught a cab back to the hotel. My stepdaughter went to the room while my wife and I hung out in the lobby to make sure the rest of our gang made it back.