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.

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