As I stepped into the body of the United Airlines airplane, I had to think to myself, “This will be fun. Something good will come of this. Everything will be okay.” I was not sure of this. I did not know, what with the newly elected president, if I would actually be able to have a good time and enjoy myself. As soon as the trip really began, it became clear that my trip to Washington D.C. for the 2017 presidential inauguration would be the best experience of my life.
It is important to note this Claw reporter’s bias as it will pertain to the telling of the story. I have never been a fan of President Trump and I never will be. When he was elected, I was heartbroken in more ways than one. Because of my dislike for the President, I went into the trip expecting and preparing for the worst, but came out the other side with a completely changed perspective.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
The first day of the trip was really the first night. We met up at the airport at 8:00 PM in order to be ready for our flight that left at 11:00 PM and would arrive in D.C. between 7 and 8 AM. The Seniors on the trip were Ava Badger, Annika Bauerle, Quinn Becker, Bella Castagna, Ian Gallagher, Carly Hill, Mira Lion, Aaron McKay, Jonathan Rose, Jenna Solomon, and myself. From SLV, we had three Juniors: Kelsey and Sedona Clark and Elynn Lee. Representing the Freshmen we had our very own Elena Martinez Riblet. Our chaperone and incredible coordinator for the entire trip wa the AP Government and World History teacher, Cindy Martinez. Without this group, I would not have had the same amount of fun.
By the time we got on the plane, we were all exhausted. We settled into our cramped seats, earbuds in ears, eyes closed, and prepared for a long and sleepless flight and an extremely busy tomorrow.
Monday, January 16
Following an overnight flight jam packed with no sleep, we landed at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia at 7:00 AM. There is no way to describe our state other than exhausted, but excited. We collected our baggage and then waited for the program we were with, Close-Up, to send a bus to take us to our hotel.
We arrived at our hotel, the Silver Springs Double Tree in Silver Springs, Maryland. In only two hours, we had been in two different states. At the hotel, we paired up with our roommates from SLV and received our room assignments. Later in the day, we would be given another set of roommates from some other state in the country. The other states that would be in our hotel as a part of this program were Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas.
Eventually, we left for the Metro, the D.C. equivalent of BART or the Subway. After a transfer, we arrived at our stop for the Holocaust Museum. It was here that we met up with Abigail and Anna Hartman. With Bella Castagna, I went through the museum receiving a very in-depth insight into this miserable time. The museum focused on all different aspects and it was well-acknowledged that Jewish men and women were not the only ones who suffered; the Nazis went after Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Homosexuals, Gypsies, and the disabled, just to name a few. The museum was thorough, while also haunting and frequently upsetting.
After we took a break for lunch, we had a couple of hours before we had to be back at the hotel for dinner and orientation, so we attended the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Bella Castagna, Jonathan Rose, Jenna Solomon, and myself found a place to sit/lie down for some brief relaxation. Not long after we’d been there, an employee of the museum came over announcing a paper airplane concert. Solomon entered uncontested and won a prestigious medal for the “How Things Fly Competition”. She was quite excited about her award.
That evening, we had dinner in the hotel, went through the orientation process, met each of the Close-Up leaders, and finally split into our workshop groups. In my workshop group, the only people representing SLV were Ellyn, Elena, Anna, and myself. Like zombies, we made our way through the “getting to know you” activities and finally received the blessing known as “bedtime”. For the first time in approximately 38 hours, it was time to sleep.
Tuesday, January 17
Though we were not any less tired, we knew we had a full day ahead of us. We stumbled through breakfast and some of us, specifically this Claw reporter, made the fatal mistake of not drinking coffee.
Following breakfast, we quickly made our way to the buses which would take us to the Jefferson Memorial, the location for our Close-Up group photo. There must have been thousands of Close-Up students from all over the D.C. area waiting to take their picture.
Following the quick trip, we took the buses to a nearby church in D.C. for a seminar with Curtis Harris. He spoke about racism in the past, compared with modern forms of slavery such as human trafficking. We listened and stayed invested in the conversation, despite our crippling tiredness.
After lunch and a bus ride, we found ourselves at the new African American History Museum. Our program received tickets to get into the museum, something that is very difficult because of how new it is. We had a limited amount of time and had to hurry through the different portions of African American History and we were able to visit our favorite portion, the area dedicated to African American culture, music, and film.
From the museum we walked to the World War II memorial. We read the name of each of the states and territories involved, counted the stars meant to symbolize lives lost, and took pictures in front of the California portion.
Following the WWII memorial, we walked to the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. The Korean War Memorial is slightly haunting. In the middle of it lies a field with statues of male fighters. No matter where you walk while at the memorial, you will continue to be followed by the eyes of a soldier.
Our final stop on the memorial tour was to the Vietnam War Memorial. This memorial has a long black piece of rock that has the names of people’s lives who were lost during the war. The sheer number of names is a sad indication of the realities of this aggressive war.
After eating dinner at a local pizza place, we returned to the hotel. That evening, we were to have a Congressional Simulation. We met with our workshop groups to prepare and discuss our specific issue. Workshop 7, my workshop, was discussing raising the federal minimum wage.
From this workshop, I found a better idea regarding the Congressional process. The steps from committee, to bringing in lobbyists, to voting became clear and understandable.
To end the night, we had meetings with our teacher, Ms. Martinez, and we were finally and thankfully sent to our rooms for room check at 11:00.
Wednesday, January 18
This was Capitol Hill Day. We woke early, donned our business causal attire, and walked to the Metro. The Capitol building itself was closed for the inauguration, but we were able to go into the House and Senate offices.
Our first stop was in the “rotunda” of the House offices. The Congressperson for SLV is Congresswoman Eshoo and we were lucky enough to meet with a member of her staff, Matt. Our group asked him many questions regarding Congresswoman Eshoo’s policy and ideas, especially with her moving into this new administration.
Following our meeting, we wandered the House offices and looked for various representative offices. Ms. Martinez, Elena Martinez, and myself are represented by Congressman Panetta and we took a photo in front of his office.
After lunch, we went to the Senate Offices. There, we met with two members of Senator of California Dianne Feinstein’s staff who answered questions about Feinstein’s role and ideas in the Senate.
Later, we wandered the Senate offices. We were particularly interested in finding Kamala Harris’ office, our new Senator for California. We went into the lowest levels of the building and found her office. A woman came out to greet us saying, “Well, hello! Have you met your Senator yet?” My immediate thought was that this beautiful woman with dark skin, dark hair, and nice clothes had to be Senator Harris herself. She revealed this truth to us and everyone was immediately excited. We shook her hand and our whole group was able to take a picture with her.
Following our incredible introduction to our newest Senator, we went to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials. FDR’s is a very large memorial and includes one of the most significant portions: a dedication to his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. MLK’s features an incredible sculpture showing King emerging from a mountain-shaped rock. Both memorials are stunning and impressive.
That evening, back at the hotel, we had a Domestic Issues Debate. Close-Up called in a Republican and Democratic debater. Unfortunately, te Republican debater was unable to get to the debate, and one of the workshop leaders had to step in in his place. I felt bad for the Republican supporters in the room because their ideas were not as well represented, but I was happy to hear the ideas presented from the Democratic guest. The Domestic Issues Debate was fascinating and both sides tried incredibly hard to convey their ideas effectively. With the end of the debate, many retired to bed around 11:00.
Thursday, January 19
This day was described to us as the infamous day of a lot of walking. However, it did appear to be one of the days that I was the least exhausted.
Our first stop of the day was to Arlington National Cemetery. This cemetery spans 624 acres and holds the bodies of famous people from American history such as JFK, Robert Kennedy, and William Howard Taft.
One of the best parts was getting to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This process is long and specific, but it shows the dedication put in by the various guards.
Once we’d finished touring the cemetery, we set out to walk to the Newseum. Along the way, a group of about 8 of us was startled by a passing motorcade, which would later be revealed to be transporting President-Elect Trump from his Trump Hotel located in D.C. We stopped to witness the motorcade, some of us more unhappily than others, and found ourselves separated from the group. The 8 of us enjoyed our moments of freedom as we casually wandered through D.. to the Newseum.
We met back up with our anxious group at the Newseum. We entered and looked at the various exhibits centered around news, newspapers, and news media. One of the most fascinating and beautiful exhibits was the one dedicated to refugees. The images hanging of the refugees coming from all different countries were incredible and showed the beauty of diversity.
We departed for the Lincoln Memorial where we would watch the Inaugural Welcome Concert. The groups performing were quite interesting with headliners being Toby Keith and 3 Doors Down. The music was not entirely in line with many of our musical opinions, but a group of SLV students stayed together and attempted to have a good time.
After the concert and dinner, we went back to the hotel. Bedtime was early, 10:00, as the next day was the inauguration and many groups would have to wake up as early as 3:30. For SLV, we were lucky enough for this to not be the case.
Friday, January 20
Inauguration Day. We had tickets to the Inauguration because few people in Congresswoman Eshoo’s district wanted them. This meant, on Friday, we were able to wake up at 5:30 instead of 3:30. We woke up, met Martinez in the hotel lobby at 7:30, and departed for the Metro at 8:00.
The Metro station was not busy; everyone had a seat on the ride to the Capitol building. Once we arrived, we walked to our ticket designated area that sat right behind the reflection pool that comes between the Capitol building and a large grassy patch. We had a great deal of space and a view of a Jumbotron. We could faintly see the scene at the Capitol building itself through some trees.Our excitement began with the arrival of the members of the House of Representatives and Senate. We were a group of liberals in a herd of Trump supporters, so when we screamed at the top of our lungs for Congresswoman Eshoo, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Kamala Harris, we received some interesting glances. With the arrival of Bill and Hillary Clinton, we attempted to scream over the crass booing, and we achieved this accomplishment. The best moment was when Freshman Elena Martinez screamed, “I love your pantsuit!”
I thought my voice was giving out, but I found more moments to be excited about. Senator Chuck Schumer from New York gave an incredible speech, but was met by rude booing from the crowd. I suggested to the members of the group, “If they’re booing, I think that means we should be cheering.” We cheered for him, and smiled at the frowning oppositional faces.
When Michelle and Barack Obama were shown arriving and stepping out of the limousine, we screamed like we had never screamed before.
These were the moments that were significant at the Inauguration for this Claw reporter. President Trump’s swearing in and speech were less important to me, but to see other incredible people, and to go against the crowd so much was an incredible feeling. The rain that started as Trump began his speech gave e a little chuckle. Life can be so serendipitous. Despite our lack of enthusiasm over the new president, we enjoyed being in the presence of favored politicians and role models.
During the Inauguration, Ms. Martine received a tweet saying Congresswoman Eshoo’s office was inviting her constituents to come to her office for hot chocolate and croissants. We enjoyed the brief relaxation and then departed for the Metro station so we could get back to the hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel, we quickly went to eat dinner at around 4:00. We had the Close-Up Inaugural Ball that evening where we would be in one hotel with the approximately 1,500 other Close-Up participants. After eating, I got ready for the ball with Seniors Carly Hill, Ava Badger, Mira Lion, and Annika Bauerle. We played music loudly, did each other’s makeup, and quite possibly, had more fun getting ready than we did at the dance.
The Inaugural Ball was held at the Bethesda North Marriott and the space dedicated to the ball was enormous. It spanned two floors with the main room for dancing on the top floor, and games and karaoke on the lower floor. I found the karaoke room to be the most entertaining as my group of friends sang along with the performers to “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Sweet Caroline”, and “Baby Got Back”. Carly Hill demonstrated her incredible skill for singing every single word of “Baby Got Back”.
After a night full of dancing, singing, and loud music, we left the Marriott Hotel for our own in Silver Springs. Upon arrival, around 11;30, we went straight to our rooms to sleep. Tomorrow would be an incredible day.
Saturday, January 21
I had never had such an incredible experience until this day. The day of the Million Women Women’s March on Washington would come to be a truly phenomenal memory. We left our hotel at 9:30 on Saturday morning and set out for the Metro station. Our Metro train was completely packed; there was not a seat to be found. There were lines to get in and out of each station and the crowd was a sea of pink hats.
Even at around 10 o’clock, the streets were filled with people. The Women’s Rally was in full-swing and many people were around for that. We could not get to the rally itself as many streets were blocked off and there were too many people, but we could hear the enthusiasm. We walked towards the National Mall where, just a
day ago, the area as far back as we were had been empty. On this day, it was packed. Our group sat for a while and admired the signs, the t-shirts, and the brilliantly clever Pussy-Hats donned by men, women, children, and all others. Our very own Senior Jenna Solomon wielded a shield-shaped sign that she held high and proudly. Her sign read: “Our rights aren’t up for grabs, and neither are we!” Noteworthy signs from other protesters read, “Pizza Rolls, not Gender Roles”; “Sister is an anagram for resist”; and “Can’t comb over misogyny”.
When it finally came to be time for the march itself, we moved into a crowd of people marching parallel to the area intended for the march. We moved slowly, but with excitement. We participated in exciting chants saying, “Show me what Feminism looks like!” with the responders saying, “This is what Feminism looks like!”
The most difficult part of the march was when we had to turn a corner and merge with the real march. It took us around an hour to move nearly 100 feet. Our group of 17 attempted to stay together by linking arms, holding hands, or holding onto articles of clothing. Once we had converged with the larger group, the crowd was larger, more excited, and things got really incredible when a marching band broke through the crowd playing a loud drum beat as they moved through us. They had donned their Pussy-Hats and were ready to play the music of protest.
There’s something amazing, but difficult to describe about this march. We would experience this phenomenon that I refer to as a vocal wave. We would be standing in one place, and suddenly hear a roar move towards us. Before we knew it, we were a part of that roar as it moved through us and past us. We did not know for what specifically we were cheering, but knew that it was for it came from a place representative of our cause.
We ended our participation in the march at the White House. We stood there continuing to chant, cheer, and wave our posters around. I had no idea this was where we would end, and I was once again empowered by taking our beliefs to Trump’s doorstep.
I took a mental image of every person there, every sign, and mentally recorded every chant, ever wave of roars. I had never been surrounded by so many people fighting, cheering, and existing for the same noble cause. To this day, I am still riding a wave of excitement and empowerment. I am so thankful to have had such a beautiful opportunity to peacefully protest and demonstrate an incredible cause for all of the world to see.
We had dinner and another dance that evening, so we made our way back to the hotel via the Metro. The music at this particular dance was, in my opinion, much better and made me feel more inclined to dance. Being able to dance and celebrate with only the people from our hotel and our Close-Up group was great. I met some incredible people, and it was a nice “last hurrah” with them.
We had Room Check at 11:00 and eventually made our way there. Tomorrow would be the final day of this life-changing trip.
Sunday, January 22
On the last day of our trip, we attempted to cram in as much as we could. We had a flight at 5:20 and had to leave for the airport at 2:30. We awoke happily and looked forward to a few more hours of history and experience.
We were able to choose between going to the American History Museum and National History Museum. With Seniors Bella Castagna and Jonathan Rose, I chose to attend the American History Museum. We saw Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, Fonzie’s jacket, Julia Childs’ kitchen, and the amazing exhibit dedicated to the dresses and gowns of the First Ladies.
Once we were finished, we took our final Metro ride, arrived at the hotel, rested, took the buses to the airport, and arrived with plenty of time to spare.
Our plane ride felt long, but most were entertained by their phones or sleeping. As we landed at SFO around 8:30, I was happy to be home and ready to see my family, but a feeling of sadness set over me. Every single jam-packed moment of this trip was life changing. I learned so much, met incredible people, and experienced true empowerment. Although I never favored the candidate elected to office, and I initially found myself lacking excitement for the trip, I came out the other side with a completely different perspective. I fell in love with Washington D.C., with politics, with peaceful protest, with busy and crowded streets, with quickly halting metro trains, and with this amazing experience. My time in D.C. was incredible and my memories are ones I will remember forever.
By Maddy McMillan