by Aaron Viducich
Our two lanes of traffic feed into Dupont circle, once we enter the controlled chaos of cars, roads shoot off in every direction. We find the street we need and continue south, the buildings get taller, the traffic gets thicker, and the energy becomes more intense. “Look over there” Sara shouts, I turn my head just in time to catch a glimpse of the White House and a couple of its rooftop sentinels through a space between two buildings. We continue on down 17th Ave. and the Washington Monument appears on the horizon.
During our stay in Washington D.C. we explored the Capitol Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building, we saw the Supreme courthouse and made our way to the front gates of the White House. We took time to explore the American History, the Natural History and the National Geographic museums. D.C. has so many great places to visit, take pictures of and explore. We had a great time being tourists and seeing the sights, but what really happens in the nation’s capitol? We decided to take advantage of the possibility for a little political involvement by visiting our California state Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
On our last day in town, we navigated our way past the Capitol building to the Senate office building with a real sense of purpose and pride. The building was imposing and felt cold, but we were excited about having the chance to express our feelings to our representatives. Matt stayed out to guard the bikes while Sara, Tommy and I entered the building. We passed through the metal detectors. They always make me feel nervous even though I never have anything to hide. Once through we started the search for Boxer’s office, happily on our way to have our voices heard. Before we knew it we were entering the office, then all of a sudden Tommy turned to Sara with a look of fright in his eyes and said “wait a minute, what do we actually want to say”. We were so excited we hadn’t actually talked about what we wanted to say. Sara and I started to laugh out loud, half out of nervousness but we composed ourselves and arranged a meeting with one of Senator Boxer’s staff members. The meeting went well and we expressed how important bike infrastructure is for not only bicycles but the community as a whole. Then we headed up to the third floor and had a meeting with Senator Feinstein’s transportation staff members.
As we were heading out we passed a Kansas Senator’s office and Sara’s eagle eye, always on the watch, spotted a bowl of candy. She popped her head in and mentioned that she was from the sunflower state, she was then encouraged to take as much candy as she wanted. Meanwhile Tommy and I were chatting with an Indiana Senator’s staff member who was a fellow cyclist. Out of the corner of our eyes we see Sara emerging from the office with an armload of candy, laughing out loud and looking proud of her haul. At first we were embarrassed but then the gentleman we were talking to started to list different Senators and the treats they offered, he knew the way to a bike tourists heart… free food. We decided to call it a day and headed out before getting into any trouble.
This experience was a great reminder to me of how important it is to be politically involved and speak out on the things that are important to me. Even though we didn’t get the chance to speak to our senators directly, the system was in place for us to be able to talk to a real person. As we were waiting in Feinstein’s office there were three aides constantly answering the phones and taking notes, each call was listened to and became a part of Feinstein’s decision making process. Seeing that was proof enough for me to take the time and make a call when I feel strongly on an issue. Even though the system can feel daunting and the battle always seems uphill, it is necessary for each one of us to stand for the things we believe in and do what we can to support our ideals. Pick up your phone, type up a quick email, or ride your bike to the capitol. Telling my representatives what is important to me was an empowering experience and I encourage anyone who visits D.C. to drop in and be heard, or at the very least grab some candy.