It’s barely 3 a.m., and 13 students parade towards a bus in front of the Student Center. If you listened closely, you could have heard the suitcases being rolled across the salt on the sidewalks.
As we landed in Washington, D.C., we could hear the buzz of the city. Travelers in the airport were all talking about the major topics of the week as they stared at the news broadcasts racing across the many screens: Supreme Court hearings for Neil Gorsuch, the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the still present excitement of a new and controversial administration. We left Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport knowing this was going to be great.
We stepped into the D.C. Metro system, many of us for the first time, getting off in the Navy Yard to drop our luggage off before quickly heading to our first workshop with a representative from the Massachusetts State Universities Council of Presidents to learn from a professional how to navigate the congressional offices and advocate for higher education.
We then zipped to the U.S. Capitol building without missing a minute, to attend a meet-and-greet event with Massachusetts’ own Senator Elizabeth Warren. She had us meet with her as her appointment, so she could meet with us personally and give us more time to speak to her about student concerns. This was just our first day in our nation’s capital.
As each day passed, we worked our way through each office of the Massachusetts congressional delegation; meeting with every representative and senator, or one of their aides. Notably, we were able to meet with Worcester’s own Congressman Jim McGovern, who spent more than an hour with us, talking about his efforts on Capitol Hill. He listened to our concerns about the proposed budget cut to Title IV funding, including work-study programs and the Pell Grant program, as well as our report about the state’s lack of funding to support the collective bargaining agreements, which has left current and future students continually paying rising student fees.
In addition to all of this, we were able to experience the museums and culture of Washington, D.C. Luckily, our advisors secured highly coveted tickets for us to get into the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. Walking through the many floors of displays, artifacts, and images of the past was powerful and moving for us.
Towards the end of the week, we were on a tour of the Capitol building by one of the many guides. While in the rotunda, the room quieted as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan came walking by to head to his office, just minutes before the media announced that the House had pulled the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Moving into the first person here, I must editorialize that being in the nation’s capital at such a historical time, with such an aura of excitement, was amazing, and a moment none of us will ever forget.
This trip was made possible by the tireless efforts of Patrick Hare, staff assistant in the WSU President’s Office, and Carl Herrin, assistant to the President for international, community, and governmental affairs, and funded through the President’s Office and University Advancement Division.
Written by Travis Nichols, a senior urban studies major