By: Sarah LeBlanc
After standing or sitting on the cold ground for over 7 hours, at around noon, this group of Drake students witnessed the 45th president of the United States be inaugurated. The ceremony was an orchestrated display of democracy at its finest, but behind the scenes, a pretty substantial shift in power was taking place. For thousands of government appointees, they just had their last day of work. For thousands of others, they’re preparing for the next four years, which still remain largely uncertain. But whether staffer or appointee, civilian or politician, the mere sight of the U.S. Capitol, now dressed in flags, can evoke feelings of patriotism, power, and maybe even awe. At least, that’s how it was for senior politics, religion and English triple major Jon Lueth when he toured the building on Tuesday.
“I think the Capitol stuck out to me because there is just so much history there,” Lueth said. “I mean this truly is the seat of power in American government.”
With footsteps echoing off the marbled floors, the happy, cohesive group of Drake students walked through the halls of the Capitol, craning their necks to look up at the ceilings painted in intricate designs and decorated with extravagant chandeliers with drooping crystals. While many aspects of the tour stood out to Jon, one of his favorite stories was of President John Quincy Adams, who chose his spot in a former congressional room because it was conducive to eavesdropping on his colleges across the space, due to the way echoes are transmitted throughout the room.
“The most fascinating fact to me was that this area that used to be the Chambers of the House, then became a storage shed and a farmers market, and then back to storage,” Lueth said. “This is a spot where arguably some of the greatest legislation and most important legislation of the time was being made.”
The room now holds over two dozen statues recognizing people whose work substantially impacted their state and their nation. The Iowans in the group were excited to see the statue of Norman Borlaug, a native Iowan hailed as the father of the Green Revolution. Other statue favorites scattered throughout the Capitol included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant.
After staring at the gorgeous architecture that wraps around the building, viewing the Senate chambers both new and old, and sitting down for a quick meeting with members of the Agriculture committee, we got a little time to wonder whether visiting the Capitol will feel any different during the next four years. For Lueth, discovering a way for the President and Congress to collaborate within this building’s powerful walls will be a defining issue.
“We’re going to have two factions that are supposed to be the same party they’re going to have to find new ways to work together because they clearly have different ideas,” Lueth said.
This may be the first time since George W. Bush’s presidency that Congress and the Presidency have been controlled by Republicans, and the first time they’ve had this much of a majority since 1928, but just because Trump checked the Republican box doesn’t necessarily mean his legislation will be passed much easier than Obama’s. With his divisive rhetoric and broad demands, getting his laws passed may not be an easy feat. Lueth, a Republican, doesn’t know what the next four years will hold, but he’s enjoyed learning about the D.C. perspective during the last two weeks.
Originally from Sparta, Illinois, Lueth’s trip to D.C. was his first outside the Midwest. The biggest difference?
“People move quicker,” Lueth said with a smile, noting the popular cliche that life on the East Coast is faster paced. It might take time, but for those like Lueth who are politically inclined, all it takes is a little getting used to before you make your mark on the city.