Today started off with Wesley and me watching a bunch of our favorite shows on Discovery Channel and History Channel (yes, these are our favorite channels. Deal. haha) while our mom wheeled and dealed to get us event tickets (all we had as of this morning was Swearing-In tickets). Having pulled that off, thanks to her new best friend "Jonathan The Magnificent", we headed to the US Capitol.
Since my dad was a Congressman, we can go into the Capitol even when it's "closed". So tonight we took Maggie (the volunteer coordinator from the Obama for Utah campaign and friend from school) and her dad on a private tour of the capitol. It's good to go at night when it isn't packed with people so you can see everything. It was also fun showing Maggie places that aren't open to the public. The first place we took her was the floor of the US House of Representatives. This is where congressmen debate and vote on legislation.
In the first picture above, I am standing where President Obama will stand to give the State of the Union address and where lots of other presidents have stood, as well. If you look closely, you can see Wesley sitting in the Speaker of the House's chair, and Maggie standing beside him.
In the second picture to the left, Wesley is standing at the podium that is used for the State of the Union. This has been the House Chamber since 1857. Before that, the House of Representatives met in Statuary Hall (also called the Rotunda).
Next, we showed Maggie the Speaker's Lobby balcony. This area is not open to the public because it is sort of a "sanctuary" for members of congress. In the Speaker's Lobby, you can find newspapers from all over the world. Members can go there and read a paper between votes. In nice weather, they can go out on the Speaker's Balcony and relax on a lounge chair with a great view of the city. There are also a few work tables so that members of congress can meet with each other and still be close to the House floor for votes.
Then, we showed Maggie Statuary Hall (or Rotunda). This is one of the most amazing rooms in the capitol. It is where the capitol dome is. The Rotunda used to hold statues of two important citizens from each state. However, when it got too crowded, the Architect of the Capitol moved some of the statues to the Brumidi Hallways that go through the House and Senate sides of the Capitol. Now, some of the statues have even been moved to the new Visitor's Center. The picture to the right is Maggie with the statue of Brigham Young that is still in Statuary Hall.
Before 1857, Statuary Hall served as the House Chamber. John Quincy Adams is the only US President to serve in the US Congress after completing his Presidency.
In the next picture, Wesley, Maggie and I are testing out the crazy acoustics in Statuary Hall that once allowed John Quincy Adams to overhear his political foe's whispers from all the way across the room. The story goes that Pres. Adams (who served in the House for several decades after his presidency) would pretend to be sleeping at his desk. In fact, due to a quirk of architecture in the domed room, he was listening to every word that was whispered by his foes across the aisle. Today, there are plaques on the floor that show you where to stand to test out Adams' technique yourself. We toured the rest of the capitol, then went to our friends, the Merkle's, house for a nice fondue dinner. It was a really fun night.
TRIVIA: John Quincy Adams had a stroke while sitting at his desk in the House Chamber (now Statuary Hall) and died two days later in the Speaker's Office in the Capitol.
TRIVIA: There are actually eight different levels in the new US Capitol Visitor’s Center, but the public will probably only ever be allowed to see the top two.