Betty Takes Washington DC: Day 7

The closing day of an incredible week

Brian Lamb: founder of C-SPAN

Macon Phillips: Coordinator of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs


It has been over week since I experienced this magical day. The details are already becoming fuzzy but the impact will remain with me forever. Over breakfast we were the centerpiece, being interviewed ourselves by the charismatic Brian Lamb for his TV show Q&A. Famous for his interview style, I got to experience it up close and personal. I was amazed by Lamb’s ability to make the delegates open up, sharing their experiences with USSYP and opinions about government in general. Being interviewed, for an actual television show (date: TBA) boosted our egos quite a bit.

After the lengthy breakfast and C-SPAN interview we boarded our busses for Arlington National Cemetery. The heavy imagery of thousands upon thousands of simple white headstones took my breath away. It seemed like I was seeing the sacrifices men and women have made for my freedom for the first time. Discussing sacrifice was Captain Welsh was particularly eye opening. His knack for always saying something worthy of an instagram quote continued as I soaked up his heavily- accented words.

At Arlington we also got to hear from the man in charge of the Old Guard unit, who guards the tomb continuously. While I had realized that it was extremely difficult to be a guard at the Tomb, little did I know how difficult it truly is. From the soldiers of the 3rd U.S Infantry Regiment who volunteer to be a guard, there is a 90% failure rate in actually achieving their goals. To pass they must take a uniform test with a maximum of three minor errors (within 1/64th of a in.), rewrite a memorized 17 page paper with only ten minor infractions (essentially boiling down to incorrect commas), and preform a perfect execution of the drill. This made me reflect in awe of our beloved 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Paul Frinsthal. I had not realized how incredible it was to be taught by someone who had been bestowed with such an immense honor. Many of my fellow delegates got a kick out of me knowing a former guard as well.

Our next pit stop was at the State Department. I had no clue they had such incredible diplomatic reception rooms. They put the White House to shame! The colors within the rooms, based on our founding father’s homes like Monticello, are beautiful. They are all filled with rich historical pieces and artworks. There we had lunch in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room. For a unique twist on our usual formal lunches, a member of the State Department was seated at each of our tables. I had the good-fortune of sitting with Nicole Thompson, director of press relations in the State Department.  She was so full of life and a joy to talk to. Thompson shared her stories of traveling with the department and a few rather silly stories we promised not to share. The most intriguing part of our conversation regarded the differences in presidents and Secretary of States had on the department. Her inside look was one of my favorite parts of the week.

Our speaker at lunch was Macon Phillips. The very political appointee to the State Department had a personality that blew everyone else’s in the room out of the water. He is best known for being in charge of Obama’s new media during his campaigns. Thus, most of his speech and questioning period was focused on his work on the campaigns and the future of social media. For many of the Obama fan boys in the room, this was probably one of the best presentations of the week.

The best part of the day came in the evening with our formal closing ceremonies. As our time at Washington Week waned to a close, the air became very emotionally charged. Our military mentors were dressed in their most formal uniforms and a few had their families in tow. They conducted a very touching flag ceremony, in which they each received a flag flown over the capital. I have so much respect for them that the ceremony was the closest I was to ever tearing up during the week. Also during the dinner, we had our elected delegates give closing speeches. The first speaker, Maddi Eckhart of Nevada, was in my mentor group. As a member of the GTA squad, as we were affectionately nicknamed, I got to help introduce her. Her speech, a counterargument to Justice Scalia’s statement on the necessity of perfection, was strong. She helped remind many of the delegates that they weren’t perfect, and that is perfectly acceptable.

The next speaker was from Mandeville, LA, and the hometown of my mom. Patrick Flanigan was the most popular delegate there. His personality drew everyone in with his crazy amount of curiosity and ability to find an interest in everything. Flanigan flipped the format of a traditional speech, tearing up his original speech and exclaiming, “In the words of Sara Palin, I’m going Rogue.” He stirred the crowd into a tizzy. We were clapping, hooting, hollering, and having the time of our lives. In a unique way he made it into a bit of a town-hall forum. I don’t believe I will ever witness a speech as great as the one THE Patrick Flanigan of Mandeville gave that evening.

After the conclusion of dinner there was an immense hug-fest, as the realities of flying home in the morning sunk in. Changing into casual clothes we began our all-nighter. Till midnight we had the best DP I have ever attended, with minimal grinding and maximum exuberance. After that we got to continue to bond with our fellow delegates, our last night to do so. Everyone, while not actually intoxicated, may as well have been as the hours of sleep deprivation kicked in. We exchanged contacts and made promises to stay in touch. We waved each other off with large groups heading to the airport every half hour starting at 4:00 am. I hope the heartfelt goodbyes we gave each other are kept, and that our goodbyes were not permanent. However, this may be wishful thinking as we are all flung out across the entire United States.