Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Perspective on Monday at ALA Girls Nation from the Community of Foggy Bottom

With the rise of the sun, the staff members and ninety-eight sleepy senators began a new day at Girls Nation. Opening with the daily flag raising ceremony, the senators were buzzing with anticipation about the day ahead of us. We started the day by taking the official 2014 Girls Nation picture. Each pair of senators was given a sign displaying the name of their respective state. Excitement was evident among the gleaming smiles of every senator in the photo with many of them describing the experience of holding their state’s sign as one of absolute pride and triumph.

Following a scrumptious breakfast, we divided into our two parties, Nationalists and Federalists, and continued working on the committees regarding our party’s platform, theme, campaign and conventions. With innumerable different upbringings and perspectives from all throughout the country, many girls explained these committees as a testament to bipartisanship that truly displayed the success that comes through compromise. Senators enjoyed creating planks for their party platform, decorations for their party rallies as well as skits and cheers designed to promote their candidates.

After learning about many aspects of our nation’s federal government, we all boarded the bus and drove to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to enjoy a barbeque with some of our country’s wounded warriors. During the bus ride, we sang funny little songs about bananas and burritos to entertain ourselves while we waited to arrive. While at Walter Reed, senators were able to interact and connect with some of the bravest men and women in our country and their families. Many of these veterans are young parents so we were also given the opportunity to entertain their young children. Girls Nation senators conducted activities including patriotic face painting, bean bag toss games, sand art and applying temporary tattoos. Conversing with the patients at Walter Reed really opened the eyes of many of us to how amazing our armed forces truly are. We came to realize that these people are such a blessing to our entire nation; the sacrifices they made are the ones that ensure our freedom every day. Additionally, it was incredibly moving to see how much our visit affected the men and women of the hospital. We sang many patriotic tunes for the veterans including the Tribute to Our Armed Forces. Singing this song was so impactful for many girls because we could see the joy it elicited when an individual heard the song for his or her branch of the military. Overall, it was an amazing experience to meet the real life heroes we hear about each day but never get to see; it made us realize how similar these people are to us and how human they truly are.

Today also marked the day of the first official session of Girls Nation Senate. We discussed three different bills and one resolution that covered many different topics including employment, congressional representation and foreign affairs. Although all of the girls here at Girls Nation know a bit about parliamentary procedure from their experiences earlier this summer, everyone’s knowledge of the topic varies since every Girls State program is run differently. The confusion that occurred today on the Senate floor acted as a driving force that united Girls Nation since everyone there was learning together. Girls were a bit nervous about speaking and debating during the Senate session but many of them joined the discussion with well-written bills and eloquent speeches. One girl even described the Senate as a culture shock because she had never been “surrounded by so much brilliance in a single room.”

Overall, it was an engaging, educational and enlightening day. It seems unlikely but somehow Girls Nation has provided us with once in a lifetime experiences and deep friendships that typically take years to acquire in a matter of days. We would like to thank the extraordinary women of the American Legion Auxiliary who made this program possible and provided us with such an amazing opportunity.

Maddy Ducharme, CA
Foggy Bottom

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