After four amazing whirlwind days in D.C. I’m back home and wiped out, but energized. Working for the Congressman has from day one been humbling and inspiring, but the last few days, seeing the things I got to see and meeting our D.C. counterparts to develop shared priorities for the coming year, I feel an enormous sense of responsibility, different than before. On another level. These posts cover the highlights of my trip, and the experiences I’ll never forget.
Everything in Washington DC was designed to make you feel small. From the Neo-classical design of the Capitol to the Brutalist J. Edgar Hoover building down the street. Everything is big; you are little. Our tour actually started in our office across the street in the Longworth Building. From there Derek led us down into the tunnels below. Like a long cut from The West Wing we walked through the hustle-bustle of the tunnels – groups here and there huddled off to the sides discussing strategy, young fresh-faced interns cutting through on some mission or another, Jared Kushner with his security detail clearing the way (my private daydream was that they were escorting him out, Omarosa-style). We came out the other side, and I found myself in a place I’d seen a thousand times on TV. It felt familiar and foreign all at once.
We met up with our tour guide at his office. He was of average height, bald, glasses, wearing a smart suit that was both nerdy and stylish at the same time. I likened him to a sort of renaissance type, who appreciates a range of interests. Refreshing in our inch-deep/mile-wide culture. He started us off with a briefing on the tour and what to expect. “This won’t be a walk in the park,” was his warning to us. We’d be climbing up and then back down many staircases, and he wanted us to know that it would be challenging, but rewarding. So we set off, my coworker Kate volunteered to make sure every door shut firmly behind us – these areas were not open to the public, only Members and their guests are typically allowed to go where we were going.
We came to a doorway that took us to the area between the outside of the dome and the inner supports. What you see from the outside is a skirting that has no structural function – even the columns you see are decoration. The structural framework of the dome is about 9 million pounds of cast iron, painted to appear to be made of the same stone as the rest of the building. Even the staircases were made of cast iron, with little divots worn into each platform where thousands of feet pivoted at each switchback over the years. So many little reminders of the great history of the place, easter eggs of history.
From there another steep set of switchback stairs and we came to a door. The door was opened, and a pressure change caused a rush of air to escape, gently coaxing me toward the opening, and the light. I stepped out and everything changed. Everything I felt about this city – like I don’t belong, powerlessness, insignificance – faded away. I didn’t feel tiny anymore because now I could see DC for what it is: a tiny little speck. Just like me.
We stepped out onto a walkway that rings the outside of the very top of the dome, just below the section where the Statue of Freedom sits. You can walk all the way around it and see for miles. The Washington Monument is a toothpick. The White House is a Lego. Donald Trump is a flea. They’ll keep building these structures and monuments in order to make us feel small. It’s an illusion, and now that I’ve seen through it, I’ll never be fooled by it again.
Thanks for reading!