Wabash Blogs Washington 2006 Immersion Trip -

March 09, 2006

Supreme Court and Capitol Hill

Ryan Monroe-   Well, the group started off our day with what was by far the most enjoyable and informative metro ride thus far thanks to one metro conductor who truly loved his job. His pleasant announcements were just what the group needed to kick start our second day on Capitol Hill and the surrounding areas.


Prior to returning to the Hill, we ventured to the Supreme Court Building where we first looked at a number of historical exhibits located in the basement. These projects chronicled the Court's history, as well as, some of its most significant rulings and justices. Everyone was impressed by the massive bronze statue of Chief Justice John Marshall, and several groups members paused for pictures with their very own judicial hero. After a short pit stop at the snack bar to refuel, we began a tour of the actual Court itself, which included a description of its architecture, seating arrangement, and hearing schedule.


We then left the Supreme Court Building and made our way to the Library of Congress, which was arguably one of the most beautifully designed buildings in all of Washington D.C. While admiring the myriad historical artifacts situated on the Library’s second level, the group was happy to locate an original copy of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which many members had read in their studies of American politics. After a brief period of independent exploration, the group reunited for a very in-depth tour of the Library, which primarily focused on the building’s architecture, as well as, its contents…you guessed it…books. Nevertheless, the tour turned out to be quite interesting and ended just in the knick of time so that we would not be late for our 2:30 appointment in Indiana House Rep. Dan Burton’s (R) office.


Upon returning to the Hill, we made our way through the plethora of security checkpoints and eventually arrived at Congressmen Burton’s office. Once there, the group was greeted by two Wabash alumni, Legislative Assistant Jon Dilley ’03 and Chief of Staff Mark Walker ’88, who were able to provide us with keen insight into Congressional-Presidential relations, in addition to, the nuts and bolts of constituent representation and budget appropriations. Aside from politics, I was personally taken aback by the very homey atmosphere of Representative Burton’s office, which was arranged in such a way as to purvey a sense of comfort and intimacy through mimicking a home’s family room.


After our enjoyable visit with Jon Dilley and Mark Walker, the group returned back to Doubletree Suites drawing our shortest day thus far to a close.  As for evening plans, the general consensus seems to be a night out in Georgetown to see the sights and meet up with friends living in the area. With that, I leave you…Good night to all and Wabash Always Fights!


To view today's photo album, click here.

Posted by liedelj at 07:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2006

Capitol Hill and NPR

Justin Liedel and Chris Serak- Our day began early and lasted late today. We started with a 9:30 Senate Committe hearing concerning Hurricane Katrina. After watching Senator Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman interview DHS Officials on the Government's response to the incident, we headed to the Capitol building for a tour conducted by a member of Senator Bayh's staff.

On the train underground into the Capitol basement, we were walking through the door only to have Senator John McCain brush past us (we later found out in the Senate gallery that he was returning from lending his support to an amendment by Senator Feinstein on the floor.) After our excellent, informative tour, we headed back to Senator Bayh's office to talk for a bit with one of his Legislative Correspondents and after that, his Chief of Staff Tom Sugar.  Mr. Sugar gave us some great insight into the workings of a Senatorial staff, as well as some behind-the-scenes insight into the planning and preparation of the Senator's probable Presidential run.

Finally, we spent a few hours at NPR talking to Pam Fessler about her job and getting a tour of the headquarters. We even got to see All Things Considered being broadcast live! Today was without a doubt one of our more exhausting days, and tomorrow we have a little bit of extra time to sleep in before heading to the Library of Congress and Representative Dan Burton's office.

During our discussion after our meetings today, several of us made the point that we feel like we have, for the first time, intimate knowledge of something that is actually useful and relevant in our lives.  This trip has managed to take outside of the world of academia and transplant us instead into a behemoth, complex sector.  It is interesting to see not only how the Government works and makes day-to-day decisions, but also to see the industry that has developed around the government (press, lobbyists, etc.).  


To see the photo album for today, click here.

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March 07, 2006

American University Discussions

Jeremy Burton and Charlie Ray- Today’s schedule took us to the American University for a series of meetings with scholars on Congress and the Presidency and with Department of Homeland Security officials.

Dr. James Thurber is the founder and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. He is very busy in Washington where he routinely testifies before Senate and House committees. Recently, he has been working on lobby reform issues but has spent a lot of time in recent years on DHS and making it work more smoothly.

He gave us a handout with some research from his graduate students in which they make recommendations on how to improve the DHS. He focused our conversation by analyzing the DHS with macro politics and asking five questions about DHS. Is there a clear threat/ problem; is there a clear solution/ mission; are there strong interest groups in favor of the mission; are the resources unlimited; is there a central core of authority?

When Walter J. Oleszek joined us, a senior specialist in the Congressional Research Service, the conversation turned mainly to†Congress and its relationship to DHS. We spoke about “turf wars” between the almost 200 committees in Congress that “oversee” DHS operations.

Later in the day when Joseph Joh and Charlie Brooks (a Depauw University graduate) joined us, we got a more utilitarian view of DHS and its relationship with Congress. Mr. Joh, who deals with immigration issues, praised the oversight of Congress and helped us understand situations in which oversight is still maturing. DHS deals with over 160 hearings per year and nearly 4,000 Congressional briefings per year. Joh and Brooks work for the Legislative Affairs office in DHS that deals with Congress.

The day as a whole gave us insight into the challenges that face DHS. The mission their is oftentimes unclear and authority in situations like Katrina and along our borders seems to lack. The most common question that was asked by today's scholars was, "who is in charge over there?" Everyone agrees that DHS will be around for a long time but nobody wants to see it continue in its current form.

The officials from DHS are more optimistic about its future and feel like it is improving year by year. Dr. Thurber and others like him, however, are very concerned that change isn't coming quickly enough to make the department more prepared for the upcoming hurricane season and for possible attacks like 9/11.

There is a big disconnect between the way things ought to be and the way things really are. This trip is exposing the bright and bushy tailed Wabash students to that part of American politics that ignores what "ought to be" for the sake of political gain and stability.

Posted by liedelj at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2006

State Department and DHS Staff Discussions

Brandon Ehrie and Josh Bellis- Today we woke up early to travel to the United States Department of State to speak with officials about homeland security. First, we took a guided tour of the diplomatic reception rooms located on the 8th floor of the department building. These rooms have recently been renovated and decorated to reflect our nation's early history. Further, the diplomatic reception rooms are used between 5 and 15 times per day for official entertaining purposes. For example, the Secretary of State, the Vice President, members of the cabinet, and even the President use these rooms to inaugurate officials, entertain foreign ambassadors, and host benefit dinners. After the tour, we met with Steve Fox, a Wabash College alumn, and Pancho Kinney who spoke with us for an hour or so about the inception of the Department of Homeland Security. Along with the "ins" and "outs" of the department's protocol.

We also had the opportunity to hear from Tom Callahan, who talked about the domestic contingency plan of the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, he talked about the different aspects, or sub-departments that make up the DHS. Before leaving the State Department, we had lunch at the building's cafeteria, where we had the opportunity to explore possible internship opportunities with the department, that mainly include foreign relations. Unfortunately, we were under the impression that no cameras were allowed within the confines of the building for security purposes. Therefore, we regret that we have no pictures to share with you from the inside of the Department of State.

Upon returning to the hotel, we met with Steve York another alum and one of his co-workers, Glen Copeland about the organization of Homeland Security. Copeland gave us a more in-depth look at one of the departments primary duties, the assessment of risk. York finished the talk discussing the organizational hierarchy as well as the 27 other departmental agencies and their obligations towards the far-reaching goals of the Department of Homeland Security.

All 5 of these men with ties to the Department of Homeland Security have furthered our inquiries and increased our knowledge regarding Homeland Security.

For dinner, we ditched the Professors and went to the ESPN zone for some well deserved R & R. Stay tuned for tomorrows blog on American University, and political scientist, James Thurber.


*Note, pictures will be back tomorrow.  Due to security at the discussions, camera's weren't allowed.

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March 05, 2006

Museums and Memorials

Jon Albright- Hello from D.C.  Today we, the PSC 311 class, took the day to tour/get acquainted with the city.  The day started off bright and early, at least for us College Students, 10:30am.  We took the Metro down town to the Smithsonian stop, and thus began the day.  Our tour was to center around the National Mall, just like the mall we have at Wabash.  The day was basically divided into two sections; the first was the museums, and the second was monuments and memorials. 

The first stop was the National Art Museum.  Most of the art in museum was either modern art or a type of photography that was blown up to the size of the average wall painting.  The consensus was that while it was interesting, the museum lacked anyone that most of us have ever heard of.  However, when we were leaving we stumbled upon a Picasso; this was possibly the only piece or artist we all knew.  We toured the museum for just over an hour and then walked a little further down the road to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. 

The Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space was very impressive.  Upon entering we were greeted with the much of the actual lunar lander pieces.  The museum was packed with several interesting exhibits that formed a time line of air and space technology and information.  I toured the section dedicated to Galileo and then on to the modern astronomers.  I then proceeded on to the Orville and Wilbur Wright exhibit.  Did you know that one of the brothers only graduated with an 81% from high school, right there Indiana?  Yeah, one of the people who made human flight didn’t even have a GPA that most of us had in high school.   We spent another hour there and then proceeded to the American Indian Museum.  Our time there was limited, but so was the space within the museum.  We then went to the Congressional National Botanical Gardens which currently has an extremely large Orchid exhibit. 


When the class finally finished in the gardens, we stopped for a photo shoot in front of the Capitol building.  Next we went on the long trek back down the other side of the mall to see the Washington Monument.  We were going to take the elevator to the top of the monument; unfortunately we were too late, and missed our chance for tickets. There are only 1800 tickets available daily, so you can imagine how fast those go on a Sunday. 

Our next trek was to the War Memorial.  We visited each of the other individual memorials starting with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  When I first got to the memorial I was interested, but it was not one of the top ten reasons I came to visit.  However, as I began walking down the sidewalk I happened upon an older woman and could not but see the hurt in her eyes.  She quite possibly could have lost a son or husband in the war, and I figured that was the reason.  A name, that is all there was on the wall, along with 49,999 more, and it brought her to tears.  However I believe it was not a bad thing, maybe with her visiting this, it will be like seeing the grave of a lost one that you have never seen, and provide closure.  We then went to the Korean War Memorial.  Lastly, we visited the Abraham Lincoln memorial, which is currently being renovated, but we were able to see it anyway. 

I have to admit it now that I am writing this down; a lot of the exhibits I visited were centered on primary school or possibly high school children.  However, not everyone can say that they have visited these treasures of our native country.  I am glad to be a part of this trip, to have the opportunity we have at Wabash College is outstanding.  We should, and do, feel honored to have this opportunity.  I hope that this little addition will be read, and will provoke that little boy, and maybe if a woman is reading this the little girl, to make the trip here to the nation's capitol, Washington D.C.

To view more photos, check out the second day's photo album.

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March 04, 2006

Preparation and Flight

Justin Liedel- Our class spent Friday afternoon discussing preparations for our departure to the Capitol Saturday morning. Everyone seemed extremely excited that we were leaving tomorrow - either that or we pretended to be so Dr. Hadley didn't change the discussion to our reading over The President's Agenda.

Our class met Dr. and Mrs. Hadley at the Chapel steps early this morning. Well, most of us were there early, as this picture of Dr. Hadley waiting for the latecomers shows.

After an early arrival and uneventful flight to Washington DC, the plans for the day were to spend a few hours settling into our hotel, The Doubletree Suites and then meet for dinner at The Thai Place. 

One highlight of the trip occurred while walking down H Street and a man walking past exclaimed, "Cavemen!" It turned out he was a Wabash alumnus from 1971. I found this especially cool because he was a Sigma Chi, and greeted me when he saw my shirt with our letters on it.


After an early morning and long day of flying, we decided to spend the night socializing in one of the suites after going down to the Watergate and exploring a bit. We were visited in the Doubletree by another alum, John Serak '05. The plans for tomorrow include a tour of Washington on our own and stops at the various Smithsonian Institutions. Stay tuned to this blog for daily updates, including events such as a Congressional hearing, a meeting with and Undersecretary of State, meetings with the authors of our textbooks, and a mixer with Washington-area Wabash alumni on Friday night.

To view more pictures from the last two days, make sure to check out our photo album.

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