It was a good time to be in D.C.


Pamela O’Meara photos/Review The Senate confirmation hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court gripped the country in late September. Built in the neoclassical style, the Supreme Court building is sometimes called the Temple of Justice.

Security was evident at the White House, as it is throughout Washington, D.C.

Pamela O’Meara and her sister, Sue, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who meets with constituents and guests at her Senate office every Thursday morning when she’s in Washington, D.C.

The red-draped doorway of the chamber where the Supreme Court meets to discuss cases and decisions.

Pamela O’Meara photos/Review George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, overlooks the Potomac River and is open to the public. The country’s first president is buried there, as seen in the top right.

The five-star Trump International Hotel in D.C. is centrally located and visible over long distances in the city

My sister Sue and I had been thinking about taking a trip together — maybe to New England for fall colors — but the day after Sen. John McCain’s funeral in Washington, D.C., she suggested we go there instead. I thought it was a great idea and we immediately started making plans.

It turned out that we were there during the Kavanaugh hearings, a fascinating time for two people who love to follow politics.

On our first evening in the District we went to a wonderful free concert at the Kennedy Center, which is a nightly event. The following morning, we headed to the White House. 

We were too late in applying for White House visitors’ passes but we could walk around outside it. The police were securing the area with yellow tape and doing walkabouts with dogs. Because we didn’t know if we’d see President Trump or not, we eventually headed to the nearby White House Visitor’s Center, which shows multi-media presentations on the various families who have lived at the presidential residence.

Another day we had coffee and pastries with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at an open house she hosts for Minnesotans every Thursday when she’s in D.C. She’s impressive and just like she seems on TV, is very approachable. We were one for two on senatorial meetings; my sister’s senator, Kamala Harris of California, was not available.

 

The Senate

Walking outside and through the tunnel to the Capitol after the meeting with Klobuchar, we saw several senators in the area or on the Senate floor: There were Sens. Patty Murray, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, Chris Coons, to whom we briefly talked, and also Sen. Mazie Hirono, who moved from Japan to Hawaii at around 8 years old, speaking no English. 

To get into the Senate, visitors must make reservations ahead of time and then wait in line — on our day it was longer than usual due to the Kavanaugh hearings — and go through several security checkpoints, more than at any airport. All around town security was noticeable. No phones or other electronics were allowed inside the Senate gallery.

After all the security checks we found the Senate floor to be nearly empty. We saw Hirono step onto the floor and comment on Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the empty room, while the transcriber typed away. 

It wasn’t like the good old days where they actually held debates. Klobuchar did have a big-screen TV in her office and presumably all the other senators did too, so they could follow along.

 

Museums, new and old

Due to a time crunch, I went only briefly to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to the section for children called Daniel’s Story.

It tells about the changing lives of Daniel and other children as they are forced to move from their pleasant homes to concentration camps. Thinking about that horror, I was reminded of my visit a few years ago to a former concentration camp outside Prague, as I walked along the National Mall to the Capitol.

Later we headed to the Newseum, thanks to a tip from my granddaughter, who said it was the best part of her own trip to D.C. 

The Newseum shows the history of news reporting since the 1600s. It’s absolutely fascinating, with sections about fairness in the media and how the news media tells its stories. 

There was a wonderful display of often-sad Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, and newsworthy items like a piece of twisted metal from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Unabomber’s shoes.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest in town, having opened on the National Mall near the Washington Monument in September, 2016. It’s a museum for all Americans, with a story that dates back to the era of Christopher Columbus.  

It shows the shocking, inhumane treatment of slaves that should give everyone pause. Enslaved people were packed like sardines into ships where a great many died on the trip from West Africa to the Americas. They were whipped, chained, over-worked and torn from their families. The museum also touts African American successes that occurred in the centuries that followed.

We also made a quick stop at the National Portrait Gallery to see the paintings of all the presidents, including the new portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

 

Mt. Vernon 

and a coffee

The Supreme Court building, nicknamed the Temple of Justice, was particularly interesting because we sat in the courtroom, opposite where the justices would be and where Judge Kavanaugh would soon be seated. 

We listened to a docent talk about the history of the court, after which we walked around looking at historical photos and documents.

We missed most of the protests around the Capitol and Supreme Court by spending our last day going to Mt. Vernon, the 1758 plantation home of George Washington on the Potomac River and later, his burial place. 

I didn’t remember or realize that Washington was in his late 40s when he was leading the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. His famous dentures made of hippopotamus ivory and gold wires — not wood as some thought — were on display.

Along with his wife, Martha, Washington had 317 slaves who were forced to work his plantation. In his later years he became more and more anti-slavery, and when he died in 1799, his will stated that his slaves should be freed, though his wife’s will conflicted with that call for freedom.

Most of the week, we could see the posh Trump International Hotel, as it has a tower that rises above many other buildings in D.C. It was also close to our own hotel, so just before heading home, I walked in and ordered what turned out to be my most expensive latte ever. At least my curiosity was somewhat appeased.

Seeing that so many people are visiting the Capitol to learn the history of this country and what’s currently going on in Congress was gratifying, especially when I sometimes feel our country is going in the wrong direction. 

 

 

–Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or 651-748-7818.

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