Monday, May 21, 2012


This Saturday all the Washington Seminar participants got on a bus, and drove the 2ish hours to Gettysburg Pennsylvania, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.

South Carolina flag at the time of the Civil War
I think one of the hardest things about being from the South, and especially South Carolina (The State that seceded first from the Union) is reconciling pride in my state with sadness at its role in the bloodiest war in U.S. history. The thought I ended up with is we (South Carolinians) can't take the blame for something that happened almost 150 years ago, nor can we continue to apologize for the actions of our ancestors. All we can do is own up to the fact that, yes, SC did have a huge role in starting the war, but at the same time we can be proud of the men and women who suffered so much for what they believed in.

There were a lot of SC references in the museum at Gettysburg.  
The uniforms of soldiers from both sides included some sort of pin, these are some from SC

According to their records no one from SC joined the Union army...
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. Abraham Lincoln 
We feel that our cause is just and holy, we protest in the face of mankind that we desire peace...all we ask is to be left alone. Jefferson Davis

Interesting commentary by Jefferson Davis, he didn't want to fight a bloody war, he just felt his only option was to break away from the Union because they were no longer representing his views. The South wanted to be free to live the way they wanted, and the North (rightfully so) did not feel that the right to live as you wished trumped the right of the Federal government to protect the Union of the country. Over and over at Gettysburg I related the lead up to the civil war to the current political environment. Not that we are headed towards another civil war ( I pray that is never the case) but that the two parties at the time had become so entrenched in their beliefs of what was right that there was no room for compromise. The fact that both Republicans and Democrats cannot compromise on issues of importance without succumbing to polarizing political bickering is frightening and brings to mind some of the quotes I saw in the Gettysburg museum. 

A Soldier's motivation

I think the South is still recovering from the the Civil War. 

We at lunch at "General Picketts Buffets" apparently its plural?...

Civil War era clothing....thank goodness for progress! 

As soon as Union Soldiers arrived the slaves in the area would run to their freedom. Many would go on to fight for the Union. 

One of the amazing things about Gettysburg is the battlefield looks almost as if it would have the day the battle started. It is one of the most well-preserved battlefields in the world. 

Its against the law to use metal detectors (or anything else for that matter) to search for relics, but you could still find bullets in the fields. 

The view from "Little Round Top" it is beautiful, which is counter intuitive to the the knowledge that so many died here. 

You can almost imagine Union Soldiers hiding behind these rocks

Our tour guide. He was great and knew a ton about the battle, and the Civil War.

Union Soldiers


The scene of Pickett's charge...the final push from Robert E. Lee to defeat the Union troops, his gamble failed, and thousands lost their lives between where I stood, and the treeline.

For many years you could still see the scars the bullets had made on the rock walls

Monument to the Soldiers from Virginia, they lost the most soldiers in this battle. The South was not allowed to put up monuments to their dead until many many years after. (Obviously, because they didn't win) Now, however there are monuments to the people who died here. (There was at least one female Confederate Soldier in this battle, her body was discovered afterwards) No Confederate Soldiers were buried in the cemetery nearby, they were buried in mass graves.  

It really is a beautiful place, and reminds us of how fragile peace is, and how we should not take it for granted. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

My First Hearing

Yesterday was my first hearing. The subcommittee I worked for had a hearing on TANF spending (formerly known as welfare). It was interesting. If you want to read more about it:
Otherwise I can just tell you about the mechanics of it. This is the committee room. Its beautiful. It was built in the 30s, and has been restored to its original splendor. The first time I walked into the room, geeked out...the history is palpable.
(I found all these pictures online)
Where the Congressmen sit

the far left of the rostrum you can make out a person...I sat there yesterday!
I've been helping with preparations for the hearing for the last couple of weeks, and it was interesting to see it all come together finally. I was in charge of the PowerPoint, changing the slides at the right times. After one minor snafu it went perfectly. The hearing was delayed by an hour because there were votes in the House, and the Representatives couldn't arrive to start the hearing until later. There were witnesses who were called on to testify about a loophole that the committee found in the State's requirement. 
I really enjoyed attending and I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Around the World in an Afternoon

Today the Embassies of the European Union opened their doors to swarms of American Tourists. As one person described it "Its Disneyland for Washington DCers." Having been to Disney World, (which I consider far better than Disneyland) I feel I can safely apply my expertise to this statement, and provide opinions on its veracity.

Our first stop was the Embassy of the United Kingdom, it was beautiful.
The Grounds. The picture doesn't do justice to how green it was. 
Exterior of the Embassy

The best part, in my opinion, was of course the people speaking with British accents. They had food for sale, but I wasn't willing to spend any money for food at 10:00 in the morning, when I had just eaten breakfast. I did, however, pick up a water bottle with a British flag on the label. I also met the queen. She was very kind, but not much for talking. 
I have to admit, I thought she would be taller. 
There were a lot of different stations on the grounds of the Embassy. I signed up to win a luxury car for the weekend. (You had to be 25 to apply, and I was the only one in my group of friends that could go...not sure how I feel about that) I also applied to win a trip to Northern Ireland. All you had to do to apply was put a golf ball in a hole, and it didn't matter how many strokes it took. Then I just had to give them a business card, or my contact info. Luckily I got business cards this week!
This gentleman was over by the Scotland booth, and in I decided to take a picture with him. 
He was very nice, and we talked for a bit about Scotland, and my plans to go there some day. 

These roses were gorgeous, I thought my mom would appreciate them. 
Similarities with Disney:
1. Lines
2. Lots of people
3. Exhibits
4. Nice people
5. Expensive food
6. A person dressed as a fox
No rides though, which is a big part of Disney.

The Netherlands:
At the Embassy for the Netherlands they had us tour the residence. It was a very nice house, but not as fun as the UK Embassy.
Similarities to Disney:
Beautiful Landscaping

 Roped off areas where you really want to explore...
 Really pretty library...maybe not something you would find at Disney, unless it was an exhibit about Beauty and the Beast...but it was pretty!

 Big signs that are basically superfluous.

 People in Costumes
Outside the Croatian Embassy
 The happiest place on earth....ok not really, but it was as close to Portugal as I could get!
 Actually (in my unbiased opinion) the Portuguese Embassy was the best of all of the Embassies we visited. They were organized (the wait was pretty long) we watched movies on Portugal, heard about the symbolism of the flag, and they gave us FREE FOOD!! (Definitely NOT something that happens at Disney)
I was able to talk with the people in Portuguese, and they gave us the last of the pasteis de nata....a special pastry from Portugal that I love!

All in all it was a great afternoon, similar in some ways to Disney, not quite as expensive, but lots of fun!