Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tour de Capital

So I visited the capital today as part of a Department of State (DoS) Intern program event. As I mentioned before, the program plans several events a week of this type. The Capital building was absolutely beautiful though the tour was pretty short. The new Capitol Visitor Center just opened last December so it is very nice and new. Apparently, the 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is the largest addition to the Capitol in its 215-year history.

We started in Emancipation Hall, named in honor of the enslaved laborers who helped build the original Capitol, which is underground. This large room is lined with statues from the National Statuary Hall collection. "Luminaries include Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television, and King Kamehameha of Hawaii, whose gold-caped statue towers over the others." We were then escorted to a theatre to watch an orientation video, "E Pluribus Unum," named for the motto found on the Seal of the United States meaning "out of many, one." This video was exceptionally well done and very interesting and had that "proud to be an America" effect, as I'm sure was intended. Our guide then took us into the main Rotunda, which was beautiful. The paintings and high ceiling, and architectural detail was impressive. We then walked through a room of statues originally extended to be the galleries but had proved to have bad sound quality and not enough room for the other states that later joined the union. We were then escorted to the crypt, whose name deceives its visitors, as no one had ever been buried there though this was the rooms original purpose. The crypt contained more status of famous statesmen (and state-women) and such. We did not go to the galleries where the House and Senate convene because I did not go to my Representatives to get passes. I'll have to make sure to do that in the next couple weeks.

We were then left to wander around on our own. There is a gallery of high tech videos, displays and even touch screen quiz games that allow visitors to learn more about the goings-on in the capital. Overall, short trip but worth it to feel a little closer to the process that is American democracy.

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