Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wally Reflects on Washington Adventure

Greetings from Washington! I’ve been so busy throughout the last few days. I’ve had to stay up late with the senators so I could get ready for our senate sessions and practice our skits and musical numbers for talent night. Did you know that koalas sleep between 18 and 22 hours a day? I think I’ve been awake for that many hours each day during my time at ALA Girls Nation. It has been a true honor to spend my week with these amazing senators from all over the United States. I think I might have to do some more traveling before I head back to my family in Australia. I have so many friends now that live in so many interesting places that I can go explore. I will try my best to keep you posted. Before I go catch up on my sleep I thought I would give you an overview of some of my favorite moments from my week here at ALA Girls Nation.

I was able to follow the ALA Girls Nation senators on their tour of the monuments at the National Mall. They sang a variety of patriotic songs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and it was beautiful. There are so many wonderful tributes in our history. Did you know you could stand in the same spot that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood to deliver his speech “I Have a Dream”? There is a special tile there that people like to stand on and look out from where he stood. It was pretty cool to put myself in his shoes and pretend to give a speech to the American people. I took a picture of some senators by the engraved inscription and think that I will see if I can find more books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He sounds like a very interesting man that wanted everyone to get along.

Hanging out in party meetings was exciting. The senators taught me cheers for the party rally. Not only are these girls articulate in their public speaking, but their decorating skills are impeccable. I learned that campaigning is an important part of the election process. Did you know that politicians make signs and have a team of people that help distribute them? Since I helped the senators make their signs, some of them made me my very own sign, and let me pretend to be the Majority Whip! I learned that sometimes it is just as rewarding to help people get elected from behind-the-scenes as it is to be the person elected. I want to give a shout out to all my new friends (Nationalists and Federalists) that helped people get elected this week. It’s a tough job, but without the people behind the scenes the candidates can’t do as well as they do. Good politicians know that it takes a team of people to get elected. I wasn’t allowed to actually vote in the presidential and vice presidential elections, but it was fun to pretend. Did you know that there are rules about voting? Each country has its own rules and I learned that ALA Girls Nation is no different! I am not old enough to vote yet, but you better believe that when I am that I will make sure I exercise my civic responsibility and do so.

Thursday was a very exciting day for all of us. Thanks to some great people at the American Legion’s D.C. office, a White House visit was arranged. What an honor to stand in a place where so many powerful leaders have stood. President Obama told the senators that he was confident in their abilities to become great future leaders. He was a pretty funny man and I think if he had stopped to talk to me like he did with each of the ALA Girls Nation senators and staff, I would have told him a joke. He told the Girls Nation senators that they were probably more productive in their senate this week than the real life senators in the United States! Can you believe that? He then told them that when they meet with their senators that the girls should try to “knock some sense into them!”

It was also really cool to see the different rooms in the East Wing of the White House. Did you know that the girls in the program got to wander around the rooms without being blocked off by ropes. I can’t believe they trust them not to break anything! I was nervous, but the girls were excited to explore and take pictures. I will say that meeting the president of a country is a pretty cool thing. The girls told me that regardless of what political party you belong to that meeting the president is an awesome experience. I think it was cool to hear one of the staff members say that you should “respect the office” and that makes so much sense! It truly was an honor that not many people get to do and that made me feel very special.

My adventures at ALA Girls Nation have come to an end. Votes have been cast, officials have been inaugurated, pictures have been shared, and this adventure is complete. Now let’s all start our new adventure!


Government Staff Honors Service of Veterans

This week, the Government staff has been kept very busy. We have copied bills, rallied parties, eaten too much ice cream, and called senators out of order…but less noticeable is that we have worn four buttons on our uniform daily.
Kelly Circle proudly wears the image of her mother, Twila, who served in the Navy. She was an assistant to the photographer for the Blue Angels and a librarian. It was through her military service that she met Kelly’s father, while stationed in Pensacola. Kelly has always looked up to her mother for being an incredible woman and a trailblazer. In her words, “In the 1950s not many women were in the service.” 

Jane wears the photo of her mother, also a veteran from an era in which many women were not. The love and respect Jane has for her mother is apparent anytime she is mentioned.
Tracy Nelson wears a button that shows her father, a Navy veteran of 26 years. My button is of my daddy (and yes, he knows he is still my daddy), Kirk, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. 

In honor of their service, we try to serve our communities when and where we can. We have dedicated the past week of our lives to providing what we feel is one of the most enriching programs imaginable for high school students. The long days and short nights are nothing compared to what so many of our veterans have experienced. We hope we have honored our parents who have served in the military and that they are as proud of us and we are of them.

Katie Hendricks