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Class trip to D.C. inspires students

3-12-2019

John Jarecki, Contributing Writer

There are several ways to spend spring break, though most of us select from a small group of popular choices. There is the all-inclusive resort, or maybe (if you’re feeling especially charitable) alternative spring break, where you can help make an impact outside your community. You may also decide to go home and see family, friends, and dogs. But for those of us who have caught the political bug, there is only one place to go — the political “holiest of holies” — our nation’s capital city.

Over spring break, Dr. Robert Speel’s PLSC 177 course traveled to Washington, D.C. Students from two universities — and two countries — were in attendance. A little over half the class was from Behrend and the other half was from Canada’s Ryerson University, located in Toronto.

Each aspect of the city inspired contemplation from the students: inside the White House, Ford’s Theater (the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination), and in the Pentagon looking across the field at the memorial of Flight 77.

The class was allowed to sit in on sessions of both the House of Representatives and the Senate as well. Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate, made an appearance while the class observed. Congresswoman of the hour, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Dan Crenshaw, another member of the freshman class, both appeared in the House of Representatives. Members of the class had a chance to personally meet with Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, both U.S. Senators for Pennsylvania, and Guy Reschenthaler, a Behrend alumni who was elected to the House.

On the first night, in the pouring rain and snow, the group visited the monuments for which the city is famous around the world: the Korean War, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, King, and memorials.

The monuments were even more beautiful in the rain, especially the Korean War Memorial, which depicts pancho-wearing soldiers trudging through a flooded landscape in the rain. The class also saw the Capitol Building and toured the beautiful Library of Congress.

Some students who went on the trip said that being able to see the country’s leaders in action inspired them. “Seeing Penn State graduates serving in the State Department and in Congress really inspires me to keep working,” said sophomore political science major sophomore Bailey Rollage.