Washington D.C. 2022
Now that we’re a few days into the trip, the kids have started to fall into a routine: wake up, head downstairs, forget a thing or two, run back upstairs, get reminded to bring all their things, and repeat or get hungry enough to just sit down and eat. Breakfast today featured waffles, which Sam S. described as “bussin.” So, there’s that.
With bellies full and guide books in hand, we made our way to the Eisenhower Memorial. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Jamie Stiehm, a reporter, historian, and Asa’s aunt.
While reporting on the certification of the 2020 election, she found herself trapped in the Chamber with the rest of Congress as a mob descended upon them. She gave her firsthand account of the events that day and took questions from the students.
“What was going on inside your brain while you were in there?”
She responded she wasn’t sure she would make it out alive.
“How do you feel about our democracy now?”
“I’m an optimist,” she informed them, reminding students that even though at times things are tough, democracy in the US still works and the gears of justice are turning even though it might be turning slowly.
She also informed the students that a hearing on the findings of the Jan. 6th committee would be taking place Thursday at 8pm. Many of the kids whipped their faces toward their chaperones at these words. We disappointed them by saying we wouldn’t be back at the hotel yet to watch the hearings on TV, so they ask their loving parents/guardians please record it for them.
After her formal talk ended, some students explored the Eisenhower Memorial space while others crowded around Ms Stiehm to continue peppering her with questions about her experiences and thoughts reporting on politics in DC. She took the time to patiently answer each of their questions, and whether she realized it or not, inspired them with her words and stories.
As we left, Ms Stiehm made the chaperones’ morning by commenting, “It was a joy to be with your excellent young minds today. Great questions!”
After our time at the Eisenhower Memorial, we were left with a quote by the man himself to ponder. From his farewell address, he said, “As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.” When I asked Devan about this quote, he said, “This quote means to me that we have to think about our future. We have to protect our resources and be aware about climate change so that those in the future have a better chance.”
Our next stop was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum was remarkably well thought out, and our kids responded to its powerful exhibits. Here are there thoughts—
Presley: “The way it was laid out was interesting. Staring in the basement, in the dark. As we moved up the floors, there seemed to be progress and triumphs.”
Jaeli: “The Emmett Till exhibit was impactful.”
Gavin: “His mom was courageous to have an open casket.”
Leila: “The trial was disheartening. I liked that his uncle still tried to fight for justice. They had the evidence, but they didn’t get the verdict.”
Caleb G also had the unique experience of finding his grandfather’s name on the wall that featured African American Olympic athletes. Isn’t that pretty cool?
After the museum, we headed to Chinatown where the kids had another opportunity to shop and eat. (Don’t worry, they’re getting many, many chances to spend their money!) We knew the kids enjoyed their time because Daniel came back with a big milkshake and a smile.
From lunch, we quickly transitioned to the Portrait Gallery, which was basically across the street from where most of us ate. Students flocked to the presidential portraits first. However, the museum was filled with gorgeous portraits of all styles and subjects.
After lunch, we heard from the head of the Youth Activism Project, Anika Manzoor. Her organization teaches teens organizational skills and how to get the ball rolling on how to make a policy impact at all levels of government to make lasting change on issues they care about.
She asked them if they were passionate and ambitious. Many hands shot into the air. Then, she challenged them to verbalize what they’re passionate about.
Having recently completed their passion projects (nice work Mrs Fricke!), they had a lot to say. They spoke about issues that are important to them: mental health, women’s rights, climate change, homelessness, sexual assault awareness, and much more. They then asked her how she became an activist and really challenged her with pointed, detailed questions about how to enact meaningful change.
Anika was impressed. We were impressed! And we know all of you parents would have been impressed, too. You should be proud of the young, ambitious changemakers you’ve entrusted to us with in DC this week. You should also know that you’re all on their minds still. Presley expressed the sentiment best when talking about where her passion comes from: “My mom is my inspiration.”
We arrived at the White House lawn where students gathered and contemplated the important historical events that have occurred near the White House and also this important question, “Should Americans be allowed to protest anywhere?” After a few back and forths, Henry F, said it was fair and just to protest whenever as long as it was ethical! A lot of things to think about.
However, amidst all this serious discussion, students became distracted by the faint sounds of the Electric Slide in front of the White House fence. Once released, a set of students ran to the location of the music and began joining a crowd already dancing the shuffle. A clear highlight of democracy!
While overnight protests are no longer allowed in Lafayette Square, there was one protest that predated the change, and thus, they were allowed to stay. In fact, the tent and a rotating number of volunteers have been present at said protest since 1981, which began as a protest against nuclear weapons. Today, they stand up for the many injustices they see in the world.
After a short walk through Lafayette Park, students saw Black Lives Matter Plaza. What was initially an art installation following the George Floyd protests became a permanent part of the city due to DC’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, and her disagreement with former President Trump removing protesters from the park.
It wouldn’t be an out of state trip without a little rain, literally. Since driving all the way to Camden Yards only to eat a soggy hot dog while learning the game was canceled was something we didn’t want to do, we pivoted. Also, a new face joined us, Mrs. Abo who will be with us for the final leg of the trip. The kids were delighted by her presence. Yet, the big question remained, what would we do instead of the game? We decided to turn our attention to Georgetown for some food and the remaining monuments found all across DC. One highlight of this was the Albert Einstein Memorial. The memorial is designed to encourage interaction, and our students jumped, quite literally, at the chance to climb on Einstein. They each jumped their way through to get to the highest point of the monument (see pictures). Our adventure ended at the Kennedy Center. All the kids split up into groups searching it up and down, left and right. Most of them ended up on the terrace where they enjoyed the view of DC’s skyline, the Potomac, and lightning striking Camden Yards in the distance. We then got on the bus and headed for the hotel for the NBA finals and some rest.
Our last full day in DC and their last full day as a touring group will be tomorrow. The kids will visit Capitol Hill and enjoy lunch at Eastern Market. Following lunch we will visit the Holocaust Museum, the National Mall and a few war memorials.
If anything we’ve shared about this week is any indication, tomorrow is going to be epic by all means.
One last thing, when asked what their favorite part of the day was, your kids replied—
Sadie: “The view from the Kennedy Center.”
Hamish: “Exploring Georgetown.”
Caleb: “Hearing about the insurrection from someone who was there.”
Ruthie: “The Portrait Gallery.”
Zoë: “The protestor in Lafayette Park.”
Ella: “The activism talk.”
Jade: “The African American Museum of History and Culture.”