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Remember when you were in elementary school and upon returning from vacation you had to write an essay about how you spent your time away from school? In that spirit I give you: “Stop! My Brain Will Explode if You Tell Me One More Fact About Abraham Lincoln” or “My Trip to Washington, D.C.”

Last Saturday, my family and I traveled via Honda Odyssey to our nation’s capital. It was a long journey similar but opposite in direction from those Tennessee pioneers who left New England to settle and establish our slanted rectangle of a state (The early pioneers had those snack packs with the plastic knife to spread goopy cheese on club crackers and their kids drank juice boxes while they watched old episodes of The Brady Bunch in their covered wagons, right? Oh, yeah. The Brady Bunch probably wasn’t in reruns yet. Silly me.). We split the trip to D.C. in two by staying one night at a Comfort Inn in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

We woke up early on Sunday so that we could be standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before lunchtime.

After a brisk walk through the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and the Korean War Memorial we headed to the house we rented for the week.

We changed our clothes and freshened up before meeting our good friend who is a Secret Service Agent. He took us on a private tour of the West Wing. Brent and I recently re-watched all of the episodes of the TV show The West Wing so everything we saw had to be changed into the TV version for me to fully understand it. For instance, our friend told us that he is assigned to Jacob Lew. Not impressive until he reminds me that he is the Chief of Staff…he’s Leo McGarry. Oh! Cool! We went in the Press Room. “That’s the door where Jay Carney walks out for press conferences.” Who? “C.J. Cregg.” Really? Amazing! 

The oval office looks much less majestic up-close and there weren’t a whole lot of roses in the Rose Garden. I mention this not to complain but to comment on the fact that this is a place meant for work. As the granddaughter of a woman who was raised in a Quaker family, I can appreciate the plain-looking black telephone by the simple, tan sofa in the office of the world’s most powerful man. I came away with the feeling that these offices were filled with people who—whether you agree with their bills and vetoes or not—understand that they won’t be in these roles forever and they want to get as much done during this time as possible.

At the end of our first day in D.C. (For supper we ate at our friend’s house with his sweet wife and two adorable daughters!), I went to bed with the reality of the role of the president looming in my thoughts. I thought about the FDR Memorial with the statues of downtrodden men in bread lines during the Depression, the barefooted farmer listening to his radio during a “Fireside Chat,” and President Roosevelt in his wheelchair. With all the obnoxious noise about the upcoming election, I’m reminded that one man can make a difference in the course of a nation but the nation itself is made up of many. Being responsible for the welfare of so many must be the source of daily headaches and heartaches but I can make a difference in the lives of those around me without a caucus or a supporting delegate. I can care about the person standing in line in front of me or sitting in the car next to me. I am the President of the United States of Abby-erica! So, let’s take a step back on some of the negativity. History can be a deadweight that holds us down with feelings of guilt and helplessness or it can be a set of directions in reverse. If our Tennessee pioneers could only see us now!

(Stay tuned for Day Two!)

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Our Trip to Washington, D.C. (Day One)

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