Our week in Washington, D.C., came to a close with a private tour of the US Capitol. We reveled in awe and intrigue as we roamed the halls of one of America’s most powerful institutions. The majestic rotunda and marble staircases evoked the Capitol’s storied history of both tragedy and hope. Earlier in the week, we visited think tanks, government agencies, and NGOs. These were all examples of organizations that have and will continue to profoundly impact democracy, development, and the rule of law. However, it was fitting that we end our week at the place where the changemakers have been directly entrusted by the voters. My favorite symbol of this relationship between the lawmakers and voters was literally underground. The Capitol boasts a wide network of tunnels that connect the different wings of the massive complex. In one tunnel, the walls were lined with dozens of paintings. Capitol Legislative Director and our resident tour guide, Ben Chao (BA '17), explained that these paintings were the winners of a national art competition. Each state chose a slate of paintings from high school students that best represented their congressional districts, ranging from the mountains of Oregon to a military service dog from Texas.
The main event at the Capitol was next: a roundtable discussion of recent Stanford graduates working on the Hill. We greatly admire these graduates, both because they’re close to our age and also because they represent a new generation of Stanford students venturing out of Silicon Valley and into the world of legislative power. Moreover, the panelists represented a diverse swath of Congress. Some were working for storied offices in the Senate, and others joined up-and-coming representatives from the House. Some were focused on environmental policy, and others on foreign relations. Some were political science majors at Stanford, and others were engineers. It was an inspiring reminder of what all of us in the CDDRL cohort were capable of doing with our careers, even if we come from different backgrounds.
Later that evening, we were treated to a special meet and greet at our hotel. Alums of CDDRL's Fisher Family Honors Program joined us for an hour of engaging conversation and delicious charcuterie boards. Like our panelists at the Capitol, these alums represented the many different ways we could make a difference in the world. It was a pleasure getting to know these talented and accomplished veterans, foreign service officers, and lawyers. No doubt, our Friday was the perfect bookend to our eye-opening week in Washington, D.C.