We arrived a day early because we had 20+ students each from both Wisconsin and Minnesota aged 15-25 that we brought out on a bus, and wanted a day to sightsee in DC. We had just a fabulous time! Staying at the Holiday Inn Central (reasonable rates, great service and decent rooms, but location, location location!) we were walking distance from the city center. We ate dinner at a great restaurant downtown (doing a huge disservice to the restaurant it had amazing gourmet pizzas I apologize for not having the name) and then decided to walk to the National Mall and do some nighttime sightseeing.
Nothing brings out the Patriot in me like a walk through our nation's Capitol at night.
As we walked we came upon a march called Light the Night for Lymphoma and Leukemia. My mother has leukemia, so it was particularly wonderful to see thousands marching for a cure. The red balloons glowed all the way from I think K street to the Capital and was truly a sight to see and the middle school marching band ROCKED!
We walked miles around the Mall for hours on end and late into the night. We went up to nearly every monument. The new WWII monument is truly a stunning addition to the Mall as were the Vietnam and Korean War monuments. The students had a wonderful time taking pictures and learning about their country. The highlight for me was the Lincoln Memorial (as it always is). Standing in the spot where Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech is truly magical.
We had some time in the morning, so while the other students went museum hopping, I took my daughter to Georgetown U to see the campus and we had a magical mother-daughter morning together that culminated in some hard core shopping in Georgetown...way cool. I would not be sad if she decided to go there... She really is impressed with the women's soccer program and thought the campus was just stunningly beautiful.
Later in the afternoon, we registered, explored the booths (civil liberties fortune cookies rocked!), attended some receptions for young leaders and the LGBT community and then went in to dinner. After a nice welcome from the ACLU National Capital Area ED, the program began with a rip rousing conversation about civil liberties with Nadine Strossen the ever brilliant ACLU President and Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice. A rare opportunity to hear to legal powerhouses go one-on-one on issues as broad as LGBT rights, abortion and civil liberties issues of all types. Watch it yourself on C-SPAN tomorrow at 7pm ET 6pm CT or check back here. My only comment is that ALL of Scalia's arguments fall apart with Brown v BOE.
Actually if you click here you can find many of the sessions from the conference to watch either online or on CSPAN.
Next Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow debated civil liberties... You have to see Tucker LOSE IT in this debate. He was angry and stubborn and frequently wrong, but it's extremely entertaining and one of the highlights of the conference. (By the way, the simple answer to the question Rachel struggles with is this: My belief system states that the soul doesn't enter the body until the first breath. By trying to legislate when life begins, something science will never be able to prove because it's not physical, it's a faith belief. The Government is legislating religion and therefore infringing on my rights. - Just in case Tucker wanted to know...LOL)
The evening ended with Hip-Hop, Spoken word poetry and dance that rocked into the night.
We woke up early and were greated at the conference by an opening keynote address by one of my favorite speakers the Executive Director of the ACLU Anthony Romero. Always inspiring, always interesting.
Rev. James Lawson (civil rights legend), the clients from the Dover case (I got to meet many of them later in the conference and they are the nicest people-really down to earth and true Americans), and Cecelia Fire Thunder (google her, she's awesome and brought me to tears) all told inspiring stories of civil liberties heroism. You know you can read about this stuff, but to see and hear and talk to the people who lived it really is living history.
I could post the entire schedule and my thoughts on each session, but suffice to say that I really enjoyed it all. A few other amazing highlights, Debbie Harry (yes from Blondie) - acoustic; Maxi Priest - awesome; my daughter calls Joe Wilson "the Cool Guy" - and he was ;); and the final Plenary with John Dean, Katrina vanden Heuval, Albert Mora and Steve Shapiro with NPR's Jackie Northam as moderator was the perfect was to end the craziness of our Lobby Day visits.
As the bus with the students rolled away out of DC on Tuesday afternoon, I was sad. I met over 40 great students, each one of them a great American with a brilliant future. I am proud to know each and every one. I want to thank them for letting me see my country through the eyes of it's youth and for all the fun we had together.
A few other things...while we were in DC:
- The George Allen commercials are non-stop and he's really irritating
- The new Air Force monument was dedicated is is truly stunning
- Clinton spoke at Georgetown on Wednesday morning as I sat around lounging and trying to figure out what to do that day...could someone tell me these things???
- Bush signed the Military Commissions Act on Tuesday while I was there celebrating my Constitution and Bill of Rights...funny how things work... I spend 4 days celebrating a document just to have the Presidents shred it before my eyes!
It was truly a thrill to see people who have so many nationwide causes to choose to support (from the hub of nationwide causes - DC), take the initiative to help "back home" as they all put it.
They may be in DC, but they are a close nit group. We Wisconsinites never really leave home. It truly is a wonderful place to live.