A few weeks ago I spent two-and-a-half days in Washington, DC in my role as NASSP State Coordinator for Iowa. I was trying to count up the number of trips I have made in this capacity while I was there, and I believe it was my eighth I also thought it was my last with my term ending at the end of the upcoming school year only to discover that my term does not end until June 30, 2013. So, thinking it was my last trip and last chance to meet with principal colleagues from all over the country to lobby our elected officials on behalf of education, I was a bit melancholy, but at the same time ready for it to be over. Kind of crazy that I would be ready to end trips to our nation’s capital, or at least that is what a few of my friends and family think! Well, maybe.
I have found it ironic that as a former social studies teacher, and as a person with an aunt and uncle who have lived in the DC area for over 40 years, I had not been there until I was 42 years old, when I first went out there in 2004 to receive an award. However, in the past eight years, I have made eight trips to the capital city. While I haven’t seen everything I want to – it is a big city after all – I have seen a lot. The city oozes America and when you spend time on the mall at the monuments and stroll through the government buildings and museums, you really get a sense of our nation’s history and what makes this country great. And, I have seen some incredible things that do not appear in the travel guides, such as the gentleman that I sat next to on a bench waiting in line to tour the capital who spoke passionately about constitutional abuses by Congress, the protestor who has camped out across the street from the White House every day since the conflict in Vietnam, and all of the homeless people in Lafayette Park, just steps from the home of the most powerful man in the world.
After my experiences, I do not believe that any American should wait until they are 42 to visit this great city. Perhaps rather than require high school juniors to take all of these tests, maybe our political leaders should require them to visit Washington, D.C. Real-life experiences beat the heck out of reading a textbook anyway! Another of my observations during my visits to lobby with elected officials on behalf of School Administrators of Iowa is that an army of young people between 20 and 30 years of age is actually running our country. Sending all of the high school juniors out there for a week might actually be a heck of a learning experience. Maybe if all of those old folks that have become professional politicians and seem stuck in partisan gridlock would have to answer to a city full of 16 and 17 year-olds about their future, something positive may happen!
In late February I will return for my ninth trip when NASSP holds its national convention, and then my final trip as state coordinator will take place most likely in late June. Between those two trips I hope to check those final few landmarks off my list, and more importantly, I honestly hope that the political climate becomes one where our leaders can actually act in the best interests of you and me. I cannot believe that “compromise” has become a four-letter word, but I can always hope that at some point, selfish, partisan politics will give way to the cooperation that those fellas intended over 200 years ago when they wrote the script for this great nation of ours.