Crusaders capitalize on Close Up trip to Washington, D.C.


Provided by Jeff Isola '98

This year’s Close Up participants stand in front of the U.S. Capitol building during their trip to Washington, D.C.

Tuesday was a busy day for the students on Close Up. After breakfast, we were taken to the War and Lincoln Memorials, where we were divided into our respective groups and reflected on these questions: “What do the WWII, Vietnam, and Korean Memorials say about those who have served and sacrificed?” and “How does the imagery of the Lincoln Memorial portray his legacy?”

Theo Reese ’20 replied, “The memorials showed many died in service of their country. It also causes you to think about the wars themselves and how the soldiers must have felt during the war.”

Furthermore, he added, “The Lincoln Memorial immortalizes one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history. It depicts him as a strong unifier and reminds us how divided we are today, but in the end, we are all Americans.”

We were given a few hours to explore the sights and at 12:25, all the students took a group photo in front of the Capitol.

After lunch, students explored some of the cultural centers and embassies on the itinerary. Each group went to either one of these places: the Saudi Arabian embassy, the Taiwanese Cultural Center, or the Korean Cultural Center.

Brendan Jordan ’20 said, “I was assigned to visit the Korean Cultural Center. It was an informative experience as we were given a presentation on the history and culture of South Korea.”

At 3:35, we were taken to the US Marine Corps Memorial and at 4:30, to the US Air Force Memorial. This gave them the opportunity to marvel at the architectural sights for a few hours.

John Gill ’20 remarked, “Both the Marine and Air Force memorials were also fulfilling experiences. The Marine memorial had every conflict that the Marines participated in underneath the statues of Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima. Overall, visiting any memorial site was fulfilling as we were able to see a visual depiction and memorialization of the sacrifices the soldiers made in order to keep the nation safe.”

At 5:30, we ate dinner at the Pentagon City Mall and were later brought back to the hotel. At 7:00, all of the students had to meet in their groups and participate in the Congress workshops.

Shortly, a Mock Congress was held, where there was a debate to either amend or vote on certain issues.

Afterwards, students met with their teacher to catch up. After a busy day of sightseeing and activities, the students were given an hour to socialize before bedtime.

Capitol Hill day was easily the most anticipated day of Close Up, and the mock Congress debate from the previous night made everyone especially excited to see where the actual federal legislative process takes place. As the day began, everyone pulled their nicest clothes out of the hotel room closets and dressed up in suits and ties. After gathering in the hotel lobby, our Riordan group headed down to the subway eager to explore Capitol Hill.

Our first activity of the day was a tour of the Capitol building. As we walked around, we saw the Old Senate room of the mid- 1800s, the National Statuary Hall, and of course, the Rotunda. After the tour, we headed over to the northern wing of the building to sit in on the Senate as they approved the nomination of a judge for the U.S. District Court in Alaska.

At first, there seemed to be nothing going on in the Senate too, but eventually, almost everyone entered the room to cast their vote while we observed. It was pretty unforgettable seeing so many famous politicians like Ted Cruz, Diane Feinstein, and Mitt Romney all in one room together talking and joking around before and after they voted.

Our next stop was the south wing of the Capitol Building, where we sat in on the House of Representatives. After our time in the House, we left the Capitol Building to take a lunch break.

After getting an energy boost from lunch, we had a meeting with some of Senator Diane Feinstein’s staffers who work on her drug caucus. They held a very engaging Q&A, giving us insight into what it is like to work for a U.S. Senator and their roles in the lawmaking process.

For our next activity, we journeyed to a completely different branch of government: the Supreme Court. While waiting to be let into the actual courtroom, our class wandered around the foyer, which had a white marble bust for every Chief Justice to serve on the Court. After a brief wait, we entered the courtroom, where the tour guide gave us a brief history of the Court and information on how it operates.

Our whole group found it a little difficult to pay attention, however, because we were all quite fascinated to be sitting in the room in which so many landmark court cases were heard.

Following our brief visit to the judicial branch of government, we journeyed back over to the legislative branch, where we met outside Representative Jackie Speier’s office. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Speier was unable to meet with us, but we met with one of her staffers to discuss the day-to-day operations of a U.S. Representative.

Once this meeting adjourned, we had one last stop on Capitol Hill: the Library of Congress. With over 168 million items, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. In addition to the library itself, we got to enjoy various exhibits, including one on Rosa Parks and the women’s rights movement, and another being Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Once we had finished exploring the library, it was time for us to leave Capitol Hill and meet up with the rest of the Close Up participants.

Once we were reunited with the rest of the Close Up program, we were bussed to the JFK Center for Performing Arts where we watched a play to end the day. The play was called “Shear Madness,” which was an interactive murder mystery story. Throughout the play, the audience was able to point out key details to the cast and even accuse certain people of committing the crime. Once the curtains drew to a close, we headed back to the hotel for a little bit of social time and a good night’s sleep for yet another eventful day.

Thursday started with waking up and eating breakfast at the usual time of 8:00, and then at 9:00 we had a workshop. Today’s workshop was about sustaining democracy. In the workshop, we talked about the role of a citizen in a democracy. These involved things like voting and protests.

After the workshop, we went to the White House. It was smaller than we thought, but the real interesting part was the man who has been protesting nuclear weapons since 1981. That makes it the longest protest ever. We visited some citizen action sites at 10:45, then at 11:45, we went to a neighborhood for lunch.

For lunch, we were given a choice of all these different places, but most people ended up at Ben’s Chili Bowl. That was one of the best restaurants many of us have ever been to. The food was great! Many said the next time they are in Washington, D.C., they will definitely revisit that place.

At 1:45 the bus took us to the National Portrait Gallery, where they keep photos and paintings of the presidents and other historical figures. At 2:45 we were taken to Arlington National Cemetery. The Cemetery is huge, currently, 624 acres are being used and they are adding over 70 more. We saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guard switch, which is something worth seeing. After the ceremony, we saw a few memorials, most notably JFK’s immortal flame.

At 5:15 we headed back to the hotel and had our final workshop. The final workshop was a discussion about what we learned, mixed with a little celebration of sorts. At 7:45 we had the Farewell Banquet, at 9:00 there was a dance, and at 11:00 we had a room check, and prepared to head back to San Francisco the next day.