Betty Takes DC: Day 3

The speeches begin!

Day 3


Robert H. Henry, former Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th circuit and USSYP alum

Nancy Erickson- Secretary of the Senate

Elizabeth Macdonough- Parliamentarian of the Senate

Don Ritchie- Senate Historian

Justice Antonin Scalia- Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Senator Jon Tester- senior senator from Montana, co-chair of USSYP


WHAT A DAY!!!!!!! This day, the first full day of USSYP, has blown me away. It started from sitting at the VIP lunch table with Robert H. Henry, who provided an insightful look after serving in all three branches of government. He was an Oklahoma legislator, the Oklahoma attorney general, and then served in the federal court system. His advice to take advantage of USSYP, while echoed by many, truly struck a cord, as he is alum.

The presentation by Erickson and Macdonough provided information on positions, while essential to the smooth running of our legislature that few people know of. As parliamentarian, Macdonough is responsible for being the “referee” of the senate. Macdonough is rarely in the news, bestows USSYP the honor of her only annual speech. Both women gave us an amazing view into the inner workings of the Senate, one of the world’s strongest upper houses.

Over lunch, we had the pleasure of meeting with Ritchie, the Senate Historian since 1976. He spoke of the history of great compromises in the Senate, outlying and bringing to life those we had read in our APUSH textbook. Ritchie’s stories about famous senators and senate issues incited a fury of note taking of people who I needed to “wikipedia” later.

Mid-afternoon we met with the most anticipated speaker of the day, Justice Antonin Scalia. It was INCREDIBLE! My initial reaction to Scalia was one of shock. His physical appearance and demeanor were vastly different than I had expected, both less intimidating in nature. He started with a brief speech outlining his beliefs on how our uniquely structured government, with its many divisions of powers, is the most important safeguard of democracy. Not allowing a centralization of power has allowed maximized the freedom of our citizens, despite an inferior Bill of Rights to some more restricted countries.

After the brief intro Scalia took roughly an hour of questions. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. He was very unguarded during this time period, which won him many friends among the USSYP delegates. His explanations of his constructionist viewpoint towards the constitution and helped clarify much of my confusion on the subject.

The best information he shared was on decisions he doesn’t like. He mentioned several times that his job was only to interpret the constitution and the laws our legislatures pass; he firmly believes that even if he doesn’t personally support an idea, he must rule for it if the facts says so. His eloquent manner on the subject, he won over the most support. Scalia even took a questions for me, involving the Supreme Court in our daily lives. His opinions on the role of the supreme court, on a body that should not be making the moral societal laws of today, was quite fascinating and spurred by my question as well.

Taking the hard job of following a Supreme Court justice was Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Tester is the democratic co-chair of the 52nd annual USSYP. His deeply seeded humility and humor infililtrated many of the students, giving us hope for the future. Tester’s interesting background, including being a music teacher, butcher shop owner, and farmer, gave me a deep respect for him. I find that having an established career before entering politics is essential, as this is how you gain experience before you are elected into office.

Overall this day has been our best yet. I love the ever-increasing camaraderie between the students and the magnitude of the speeches we are hearing. All of the delegates seem very eager to meet new people. Each of us had to hold a large elected position to enter the program, resulting in 104 smart and outgoing students in one room. During social time after dinner, I have now found myself for two nights playing some of the loudest rounds of KEMPS I have ever seen. My favorite part is discussing our state’s own governments between each other, comparing and contrasting what is effective and what is not.


Rumor Control

I have heard two different figures for how much Washington Week actually costs to put on per delegate. Two different figures have emerged, $20,000 and $30,000, including our $5,000 scholarship awarded to us for coming to Washington Week. The hotel and food is immaculate and beautiful to boot. It is incredible that the Hearst foundation believes so profoundly in us that they are willing to invest that kind of money in a bunch of high school seniors and juniors.