On May 2-4, six RMU students travelled to Washington, D.C., with Philip Harold, assistant professor of political science, for “insider’s tour” of our nation’s capital.
The group got to see a number of interesting things in Washington, including three Smithsonian art museums and the Air and Space Museum. But they also had a number of unique experiences. They witnessed President Obama’s helicopter land on the White House lawn. They got an insider’s perspective on Washington politics with Brian Dautch, the senior political action associate for the National Association of Social Workers. They received a special tour of the Department of Justice with Nathanial Pollock, a lawyer with the Civil Rights Division. They were briefed by Anna Platt from Sen. Arlen Specter’s office, and took a VIP tour of the Capitol Building with an aide to Sen. Specter.
There were two highlights of the trip which stood out in particular. First, the students had a private half-hour meeting with Sen. Robert Casey (pictured above) on a number of issues of concern to them, including health care, immigration, LGBT issues, and the environment. The senator outlined his stances on the issues and what was being done about them in the Senate. He described what it is like to be a senator, how the Senate works, and issued a heartfelt call for the students to take public and community service seriously throughout their life. At the end of the meeting Sen. Casey quizzed the students on the life history of Robert Morris, who was the first U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.
The other particularly notable highlight of the trip was a behind-the-scenes tour of the U.S. Supreme Court. The students visited the court on the morning of May 3, walked up the court’s 44 marble steps under the famous “Equal Justice Under Law” inscription. They were literally the last citizens to do so, ever – the Court permanently closed its iconic front entrance to the public the next day (all visitors now have to enter the building through a new entrance on the plaza level). The students attended the announcement of decisions on two cases by the Supreme Court in the courtroom, and then took a tour of the inner chambers of the court from two current Supreme Court law clerks, Marah Stith and Brian Morrissey. They were briefed on the inner workings of the Court, and given advice on going to law school and making a career in the law. The tour also included shooting some hoops on the basketball court in the building, the “highest court in the land.”