Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 30, 2011

Day 6

Thursday had a little of everything: a little work, a little touring, and a little culture.

5:57 a.m. Please let it be known that I hate Security! I set off the buzzers at the Capitol 3 times yesterday. The first time they didn’t know what it was, and the other two times it was my bobby pins. Argh!  (These were three of the most embarrassing moments in my entire life. Sigh.)

Today was the day we, as the Red group, put our finishing touches to the bill. We learned and put into practice the skills of teamwork, consensus building, gathering support, persuading others, and public speaking as we planned and implemented our strategy behind supporting and lobbying for public opinion for different bills. The day before, all eight “sides” to the issues went to the Government committee, where each side to the issue compromised to create one bill for each issue. The Red people brought the finished bill back to us so we could come up with ways to defend and promote our bill at the Congressional session, which was in the afternoon. Workshop today went very well. I was so impressed with how the bill turned out and how well all of us kids brainstormed, that I left with this observation:

9:07 a.m. Our form of government is really amazing. We have the best country in the world.

I mean, I think I’ve probably known this since I was 8, but after witnessing the process on my own level, the concept finally hit home.

After workshop, it was time for our tour of the National Cathedral.

9:40 a.m. Emily Paul is so funny. She can name off everyone on our bus. I think I can name almost everyone. If I’m in the Red group, does that make me a redneck? (Not all of my observations were astounding.)

The National Cathedral is not the official church of Washington, D.C. (like Westminster Abbey is of London), but it is a very old church, and quite prominent in the city’s history, and our nation’s history.
(My first view, as we came up out of the parking garage. Stately, isn’t she?)
10:15 a.m. The National Cathedral is the 6th largest cathedral in the world and the 2nd largest in the US.
The Cathedral is built in the traditional style of Episcopal churches: the church looks like a cross from the air. Hence…
11:55 a.m. You could lay the Washington Monument down inside the long arm of the cathedral. Whoa.
(This is the ceiling, with the flags from several different nations.)
I had the bright idea that I would like to get married here (not that I have anyone on the stringer; let’s not jump to any conclusions!!). That idea was quickly shot down as the tour guide informed us that you must either 1) attend this church, 2) have family that attend the church, or 3) have gone to the church’s school to be able to use the church building for any kind of event. Oh, well, I can always find some other major cathedral to use.
(The West Rose. This is one of four stained glass rose windows; there is one in each side of the “cross.”)
The stained glass windows that go down the sides of the main sanctuary all have special stories or themes. This is the Air and Space window. One of the astronauts on Apollo 11 had attended the church school as a boy, and because of this, the US government allowed him to give one of the moon rocks to the church for this window. The moon rock in this window is the only one not owned by the US government.
I’m very proud of this window. This is the Agriculture/Industry window, and 4-H got to have their logo in it. I think that’s impressive.
(This is the North Rose. Let me give you a sense of size: that window is 25 feet across. That figure of Jesus in the center? It’s 6 feet tall.)
(This is a pulpit built from stone brought over from England. I don’t know how much it weighs, but I bet they don’t move it just for fun.)
(The main, front altarpiece. I would never have the patience to carve all those intricate designs into the stone.)
(This smaller altarpiece was made of linden wood, covered in gold, and then partially painted.)
(I took this to show my brother that someone named a chapel after him…)
(…but this is also the same chapel where Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are buried.)
Even though you can worship God anywhere, I can’t imagine how awe-inspiring it would be to worship Him in a building like this.
After our tour, we headed back to the conference center to eat lunch, and then pass some laws!!
1:00 p.m. Some kids are loud. I hope Congressional Session doesn’t go long. Cause I need to get out of Committee early!
It turns out that passing laws isn’t child’s play, like making the laws isn’t child’s play. Here again, let me say that I immensely appreciate the work our senators and representatives do, because it’s hard. And stressful. And so very vital to our state and federal systems. IYIYIYIYI. The sheer significance of laws would cure me from ever getting into politics. Anyways, we, as the 4th Congress of 2011 Citizenship Washington Focus, had 4 bills to critique, defend, attack, and vote on. Here are the bills:
Issue 1—Public school achievement measured by standardized testing
CWF Resolution 14.T
“Resolved by the House of Citizenship Washington Focus that…
Whereas every student tests differently due to multiple learning styles (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic),
and; Whereas there is no set national standard on the requirements and mandated levels of success on standardized testing,
and; Whereas teachers are misevaluated due to current unfair advantages,
therefore be it Resolved that tests are given based on each individual’s needs (e.g. audio and video test, personal test taking rooms, interactive tests, etc.) to allow comfort to all students. All tests shall be the same in information resulting in no unfair advantages
and be it Further; Resolved that a set national standard must be met by all students yearly for each grade level,
and be it Finally; Resolved that there will be a government program to evaluate teachers each year based upon their students’ results on the standardized tests, as well as, their curriculum.”
Issue 2—Federally Mandate Recycling Programs
CWF Resolution 14.R
“Resolved by the House of Citizenship Washington Focus that…
Whereas pollution causes an increase in waste and carbon dioxide leading to the depletion of the ozone—which can result in health problems (i.e. asthma and various sicknesses caused by tainted water and pollution),
and; Whereas having federally mandated recycling programs only transfers the responsibility to the taxpayers and does not address the real issue,
and; Whereas recycling is good for the environment but may be difficult,
therefore be it Resolved that there shall be strong promotion of recycling by the local, state, and federal government that would help reduce waste by encouraging the reuse of already used materials which could lead to the decrease of carbon dioxide, resulting in the restoration of the ozone
and be it Further; Resolved that the public, through classes and promotion programs (i.e. reduce and reuse), will help further solved the negative effects of not recycling. In addition we would encourage companies and businesses to produce more durable and/or biodegradable products to the public, carried out by giving tax breaks to the companies and businesses that produce these kinds of products. Federal funded programs would be implemented to organize and produce the classes and the promotion of recycling programs
and be it Finally; Resolved that states will be highly encouraged to adopt accessible recycling programs that cater to the needs of their state.”
Issue 3—Federal Funding for Disaster Relief Efforts
CWF Resolution 14.D
“Resolved by the House of Citizenship Washington Focus that…
Whereas there is little international protocol for natural disaster relief efforts,
and; Whereas there is no consistent criteria for the international distribution of disaster relief and aid,
and; Whereas the United States, as a country, chooses to help with unnecessary aid and natural disaster relief to our allies and other countries before we assist our fellow Americans with the natural disasters they experience,
therefore be it Resolved that the United States assists in the creation of an international natural disaster protocol,
and be it Further; Resolved that the United States’ criteria for foreign and domestic natural disaster aid is standardized and equal,
and be it Finally; Resolved that the United States follows protocol for foreign aid, which will include the following:
1.      Each country will first focus on domestic relief in a state of emergency
2.      Money and resources issued to help other countries must be repaid by the country using installment programs.”
Issue 4: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) food purchasing restrictions
CWF Resolution 14.S
“Resolved by the House of Citizenship Washington Focus that…
Whereas the current restrictions upon users of the SNAP program are inadequate,
and; Whereas there is a lack of nutritional education on topics related to healthy living and comprehending food labels,
and; Whereas it is unconstitutional to marginalize SNAP participants in their food purchases,
therefore be it Resolved that the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System, developed by an independent panel of nutritional and medical experts, will be required by the United States Department of Agriculture to be placed on all food labels,
and be it Further; Resolved that a required nutritional class will be taken every three months by SNAP participants. This class will help educate about the difficulty of eating nutritionally on a budget but aid the participants in making it achievable,
and be it Finally; Resolved that the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System will be put in place but no restrictions on food purchases of SNAP participants will be implemented.”
Whew! And that’s only 4 relatively short bills. The process for each bill goes like this: The emcee announces the bill, and gives a short description of the bill’s point, since all the delegates have the bills in front of them. Then the supporters and the detractors of the bill make their case. Each group has already assigned their defenses, and then a limited number of delegates may ask questions. Finally, we voted. We were taught there are three ways to vote: 1) commitment (how does your party feel?), 2) conscience (what is your gut/heart/brain telling you?), or 3) constituents (you are speaking for them—what would they want?). Sometimes all three will agree, or sometimes it’s two out of three, or maybe you have to choose just one. We had it easy; obviously, we had no constituents, and the only loyalty we held was to the particular bill we helped write. Even this loyalty did not hold if our conscience told us that the bill needed more time in committee to be clarified and strengthened. This was exactly what happened to three of the bills. I voted no on the first bill (standardized testing) and the second bill (recycling), and they did not pass. Both of these needed a WHOLE lot more work in committee. I also voted no on the third bill (funding for disaster relief), but it passed. I felt like it needed more work in committee, but apparently the majority of congress thought it’d do okay. The fourth bill, (my bill), provided a bit of a quandary for me. At first, I decided I would vote no, because it needed more work. Then I thought, “Well, it probably wouldn’t get improved in committee anyways,” so I voted yes for it. And it failed. I was a little disappointed, simply because it was “my” bill, but I got over it pretty quickly, because I had bigger fish to fry.
Specifically, I had a newsletter to finish. With my committee team. So I raced over to committee and furiously began to finalize the layout. I had already written my piece, and the other articles were written, so all that we lacked was a couple of interviews to be written, and then copy and paste everything into the newsletter. The PAs in charge of our group would print them for us. I did all I could, and then explained to my “assistant” what else needed to be done. Then I flew to my dorm room to get fancied up. Why? Because at 5:00 this girl was headed to her very first closest-thing-to-Broadway MUSICAL. Oh, yes.
(Sharp looking bunch, are we not?!)
We drove over the John F. Kennedy Center in D.C. to eat a nice sit-down dinner, and watch a stellar performance of Wicked. If you’re not familiar with this musical, in short, it’s the back-story to The Wizard of Oz. It’s the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch used to be friends. It started as a book, but if you put any faith in my judgment, don’t read the book. It’s not worth your time. The musical is SO much better.
4:30 p.m. Lavender bunnies and Mr. Jenkins does a Marlon Brando accent. (This…is another long story. Don’t ask.)
5:20 p.m. I am finally eating asparagus! This batch isn’t really great.
(This is a cutting board in the gift shop. I didn’t want to buy it, but I couldn’t resist a picture.)
(This is one of the main lobbies. The whole Kennedy Center is just beautiful architecture.)
7:28 p.m. The chandeliers in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center are amazing. And I hope this show is good. I mean, for $66.50? They also have some costumes displayed from the original Broadway production of Wicked.
(This, my friends, is the ceiling of the Opera House, where we watched the play from front row balcony seats. That ceiling is massive.)
(Some of the costumes in Wicked are outlandishly elaborate.)
10:51 p.m. Just got out of Wicked. No words. It. Was. AWESOME!!!! I would make a good Glinda. Oh, man. Yeah. (Obviously, it was worth $66.50!!)
I came out dancing and singing. To end such a productive day on this note was nothing short of perfect to me.

Day Six’s Lesson gave me insight into myself:
We have an absolutely amazing form of government, and the best country in the world. And I am a hopeless drama buff.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29, 2011

Day 5

Wednesday was the day we converged on the Capitol of the United States of America! It was also a day to relax (in a sense), because we had no workshop and no committee. Woohoo!!

6:40 a.m. Well, last night was interesting. Cheyenne finally got mad enough that she tried to leave, but poor Kay talked her into staying. (This…this is a long, long story. Too long to bother with explaining.) Today we’re going to Capitol Hill to brunch with our Congress people.

7:40 a.m. On the way to the Capitol. I’m starting to get hungry. And this bus is gonna make me seasick. (Because of the traffic, we would stop and start almost continually. If you were sitting up in your seat looking out the window (like I was), this would cause you to rock back and forth. Kinda humorous, actually.)

(My first view of the Capitol! Well, my first view in 10 years.)
(Another side of the Capitol. The statue up top is Lady Liberty, which no other statue in D.C. may be taller than.)
(Me, in front of the capitol, being silly.)
(I thought I should have a serious picture to go with the funny one.)
(All the Newton County kids in our glory. Front, L to R: Jesse, Abbie, Madelaine, and Kim. Back, L to R: me, Jackson, and Victoria.)
(All of us with Jeremy, our patient and worldly-wise chaperone.)
(The gawgeous Newton County gals in front of the pretty flowers.)
(All 47 Missouri delegates and their chaperones.)
We started by meeting for brunch with Senator Roy Blunt and his aides. We questioned them about congressional issues or the general congressional process.
We then toured almost the entire Capitol building: the old and the new!
(This is a chandelier in the old Senate Chambers.)
(A decoration in the old Senate house.)
Later in the day, we also met with Senator Claire McCaskill. She talked to us about being informed, involved citizens in our communities.
(The delegates with Senator McCaskill.)
1:50 p.m. My feet are so tired, and you could fit the Statue of Liberty in the main rotunda of the Capitol.
(This is the ceiling of said rotunda.)
Our last meeting was with Representative Billy Long, or more precisely, his aides. Rep. Long was unfortunately occupied.
2:23 p.m. Wow, this is bad. I’m fighting sleep during our meeting with Billy Long’s aides. I am so tired…. (They really did have good things to say, but I was seriously tired.)
After touring the Capitol, we went to the Library of Congress. I was very impressed by the architecture and art in this building.
(The first thing you see when you walk through the doors.)
(Nearly all of the stone in the Library of Congress is granite from New Hampshire.)
(I took this to validate my brothers’ claims that they are gods in flesh. Or something like that.)
(I took this for the benefit of myself and my best friend, who are both voracious readers.)
(I loved the ceiling.)
(No, this has nothing to do with the Library of Congress. I tried to convince Jeremy to rent a few for our trip to the Kennedy Center, but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Oh well.)
For dinner, we went to a shopping mall to eat and shop. The food was good, but I laughed when I compared my spending money to the price of stuff. I tried to be very frugal with my money, and I didn’t consider a $250 pair of heels to be frugal.
6:17 p.m. Clay bought a $150 pair of sunglasses with a 2 year warranty. I can’t believe it! Oh, and I can’t shop at shoe stores here, either. I’m too poor! Hahahahaha!!
After dinner, we went to the Air Force Memorial. I thought this one was the prettiest memorial, “artistically” speaking.
(My view from the bus window.)
Since airmen who die in combat have no ground as their “final resting place,” this memorial provides that.
The three metal spires depict a bomb-burst: a flight trick done by three airplanes.
(This statue was copied from a photograph.)
The next memorial was almost as sobering as Arlington. But in a way, it was a beautiful place to just quietly reflect.
The Pentagon Memorial is a large gravel area positioned in front of the wall of the Pentagon that the airplane hit.
(The plane struck at 9:37 in the morning.)
“We will forever remember our loved ones, friends, and colleagues.”
The gravel area is filled with rows of benches: 184 total. Each row represents a year, and each victim has a bench in the year they were born. This displays the range of ages of the victims.
(This was the youngest victim. She was 7. Seven years old. Her whole family died on the plane, including her older sister, who was 9. The same age as I was when 9/11 happened. That one really got to me.)
(This was the oldest victim. He was 71.)
Also, depending on the direction of the benches, you would know if the victim died on the plane or in the Pentagon.  If the bench pointed towards the Pentagon, the victim was on the plane. If the bench pointed away from the Pentagon, the victim was in the building.
8:27 p.m. So the wall in the Pentagon that Flight 74 hit was a newly remodeled one, finished 2 days before 9/11. The Pentagon was a weak concrete structure, and they were reinforcing one side at a time. If the plane had hit any other wall, it could have gone completely through the Pentagon. As it was, most of the offices located in that wall were still empty, and so a lot less people were killed.
Day 5 was a long day of touring. But the next day, we would finish our work, and get a little culture!
Day Five’s Lesson:
Manners are a good thing to own. Being versatile is a helpful skill in life.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28, 2011

Day 4

By Tuesday, the time change was starting to get to me.

7:44 a.m. This sleep cycle is whacking me out. I didn’t even feel like breakfast this morning. I mean, I’m not used to French toast at 6:45 a.m. I’m barely awake!

This day’s touring was much shorter than that of Day 3.
On the way, we passed the original headquarters of GEICO. Raise your hand if you knew GEICO was an acronym. Yeah, me neither. It stands for “Government Employees Insurance Company.” Oh, and they really do keep a pet gecko mascot. He’s the reason they starting running the “caveman” commercials—the gecko got lost, and they felt it was wrong to do gecko commercials without, well, the gecko. But it all ended happily, because the gecko was found, and now they’ve gone back to gecko commercials.

7:55 a.m. Washington has 67 Starbucks! One for every square mile!

Our first stop for the day: Arlington National Cemetery, and its additional memorials. I believe this was, for me, the most sobering memorial we visited.
(This memorial honors all the women who have served in our armed forces.)
(This is the beautiful home of General Robert E. Lee.)
(This is the Eternal Flame and the final resting place of Pres. John F. Kennedy, Mrs. Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and two children that died as infants. The flame is there, but the sunlight kind of glares it out.)

We then were privileged to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a very solemn, dignified ceremony.  I must say that, while I already held the soldiers in this division with high respect, seeing them keep watch in full uniform in the 90+ degree heat raised my respect several bars higher.
(The current guard.)
(The sergeant in charge of switching the soldiers arrives.)
(The new guard, in the foreground.)
(He checks his gun, inside and out.)
(He checks every detail of his uniform.)

(And he’s left in place.)

In the summer, they change every hour, and in the winter, they change every half hour.

9:45 a.m. Changing of the Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. Freedom…isn’t free, is it?

Our second, and last, stop for the day: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Here is where I should be ashamed of myself. There were so many things to photograph here, that I sort of just copped out on the camera. The only thing I wanted a picture of was the statue of Fala, Pres. Roosevelt’s faithful Scottish Terrier.
Truthfully, though, this memorial had a lot of neat symbolism. The special thing about this memorial is that it’s the only one in D.C. that is completely handicapped-accessible. Since Pres. Roosevelt himself was confined to a wheelchair due to polio, the architects knew that he would have appreciated this accommodation. There are several different sections to the memorial: each one is dedicated to one of his four terms as president. If you ever go to D.C, this is one memorial you don’t want to miss.

11:14 a.m. It is so blame hot! And Dani wasn’t kidding when she said planes fly into Ronald Reagan [Airport] every 90 seconds. They are nonstop—and the helicopters, too.

By 1:00, it was time to return to our work for the day. First on the list: Bill Writing Workshop, otherwise known as “what I considered the hardest workshop yet.”

This day, we actually wrote a Congressional bill.

One that looked just like the bills our state and national senators and representatives write. ARE WE NOT IMPRESSIVE?!

Okay, maybe it was a lot simpler than the “real” bills. Seriously, though, if I learned anything from CWF, it’s that lawmaking is not child’s play. You have to learn to compromise with the other people in the committee over ideas and wording. It was like torture for me to stay seated and refrain from yelling out what I thought was the perfect wording. Believe me, it’s hard when I’m so picky about grammar and spelling and punctuation. You also have to learn to narrow down what your particular problem(s) are, and then you have to figure out how to specifically state your problems and your solutions.

This is the basic format for a congressional bill:

“CWF Resolution 14.S
Resolved by the House of Citizenship Washington Focus that…
and; Whereas…
and; Whereas…
therefore be it Resolved that…
and be it Further; Resolved that…
and be it Finally; Resolved that…”
I was quite relieved to find that all we had to do was fill in the “skeleton,” because I had this notion that laws were written with grand, flowing language that the common man couldn’t read. That, of course, turned out to be false.  So, we came out of this workshop with a rough draft bill. It would be refined in the Government Committee’s meeting that followed Workshop.

1:31 p.m. NuVal?

Yes, NuVal. This is a system that gives different food items points based on their nutritional value. The higher the points=the more nutritional value. One of the guys in our group brought it up, and after some deliberation, we all decided to implement it into our bill.

(And here, I will take the liberty to say that when the NuVal system was employed at our local Price Cutter earlier this year, I felt a small degree of superiority because I knew about NuVal 9 months earlier than Price Cutter’s customers.)

But I digress. With the knowledge that I had just helped write a bill-that-would-become-a-fake-law, I moseyed on over to committee meeting with my head held high. This day was when we put the pedal to the metal. We only had this day and the day after to write and finalize the newsletter, so I picked a layout and started writing my assigned piece, while the other girls carried out their marching orders. Next, we had a little playtime. I didn’t actually play very much myself. When I look back on it now, I will admit that I might have been a bit of a spoilsport about the Derby. I’ve always been bad at games that required running, so I kind of chickened out on most everything. However, I was more than happy to cheer my friends on from the sidelines. After the Derby, we got to practice discussing opposing opinions. Or what I’d term “polite arguing.” In Town Hall, all the kids split into groups and discussed issues relevant to our age and current worlds. I was fortunate to be in a group where we almost all agreed on everything and if we didn’t, we shared our differences quite nicely, I thought. I understood from others, though, that some groups weren’t so lucky. (I’m talking things like kids endorsing teen drinking and smoking. Could someone PLEASE explain to me where my generation missed the point?! Never mind.) 

6:00 p.m. Derby was boring. But Workshop and Committee were great. I understand writing a bill so much better now. We got a lot written in committee. And Town Hall isn’t as bad as I thought it it’d be.

Dinner was excellent, which was good, because we would need our strength for our last item of business for the day……the ACTION PLAN. Well, maybe dinner wasn’t that important, but the action plan was the hardest brain-work I did all week. Honestly. Even more than the bill-writing. You know what made it worse?

Two-thirds of the kids, including yours truly, didn’t have a clue how to create an action plan.

For starters, I’m pretty sure my chaperones had explained an Action Plan during the trip orientation meetings held many months prior, but I still didn’t completely understand the purpose or the process.  Let me tell you how it worked.

All the Missouri kids headed over to the Minnesota Room with our chaperones. There we split up into regions; in my group, the Southwest Region, there were about 14-15 kids. Each region picked some type of community service project that everyone would, in some way, help with. Since the tornado that ravaged Joplin was so recent, my region decided to find a way to help with that. Choosing a project was basically the easiest part. What was really difficult, and what took us all 3 weary hours to accomplish was deciding exactly how, when, and where we would do the project. Obviously, somebody had to be in charge. That ended up being delegated to the kids closest to Joplin: Newton County and McDonald County. (Well, and technically it would include Jasper County, but we didn’t have anyone from there.) Eventually, we decided this: the England family from a Newton County club had suffered a loss in the tornado and it was affecting them financially. We would raise money for them by holding Change Wars at the Newton and McDonald County fairs, and then we would do a bake sale. Emily Paul took charge of the McDonald County Change War; Jesse Shilling, Victoria and Madelaine Geibler took charge of the Newton County Change War; and I headed up the bake sale. But that wasn’t all. This very specific idea morphed into a bigger idea: we would start a SW MO Disaster Fund for 4-H families, and all the counties would hold fundraisers to help “fund the fund.”  It sounds really nice on paper, doesn’t it? I was afraid we’d never decide before curfew. After the Action Plan, we had Capitol Hill orientation, so that when we went to the Capitol the next day, we would look, sound, and act very official. This was, of course, very important.

This day was the day that we did the most work, I believe. Just writing it all out makes me tired, so I imagine we all slept well that night.

I already mentioned Day Four’s lesson, but I believe it bears repeating:
Freedom isn't free, is it?