A Real Washingtonian Adventure or Bernie Sanders Rocks the Room

Senator Sanders rocks the Summit

Senator Sanders Rocks the Summit

Have you ever been to an open Congressional hearing for the sheer Washingtonian fun of it? Ever even thought about it? I did and it’s more entertaining and inspirational than I ever thought it would be. It’s something you really can’t do anywhere else. And it’s FREE.

Here’s how my adventure began.

I received an email from moveon.org.  I’m not sure how I even got on their list…and normally when I receive mass e-mail messages I just hit the delete button. But this email came after the election and the subject line caught my attention: “Don’t miss Thursday’s Summit with Senator Bernie Sanders.” The topic was going to be “Protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” Since these had been hot issues during the election and Senator Sanders’ independent status has always intrigued me, I figured why not go and see what this was all about.

So by way of Metro, off I headed to the Summit at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Thanks to so much construction around the Metro stop, what should have been a short walk turned to be a tad longer and more complicated than expected. But once I finally made it to the building and passed through security, something weird happened to me. My cynical side started to fade and I could feel it being replaced by something else…dare I say…patriotism? Maybe it was the interior of the building, the flags…I’m not sure what, but it hit me right away.

I took the elevator to my floor and immediately spotted Senator Collins’ and then Senator Landrieu’s offices. Might I run into them in the hallway? Alas, that was not to be.

I found the room where the Summit was to take place, but I was early. A legislative hearing on the Water Resources Development Act of 2012 was taking place and since it was an open hearing I was able to walk in and take a seat.  I arrived just in time to hear Senator Whitehouse wax surprisingly eloquently on infrastructures. (It should be noted that Senator Whitehouse has a full head of silvery hair and is sort of attractive in a senatorial way.) And then…just like that…he banged the gavel and the hearing was over.

My emailed group began to fill the room. What a melting pot of folk…young, old, black, white, physically challenged… representing a variety of organizations. A woman seated to the left of me was decked out in a red hat with sunglasses attached to said hat (although she was already wearing glasses) and her fingernails were shaped like claws and polished bright red. Frankly, I’d never seen anything like this. As we got closer to the time for the Summit, a few women dressed in homemade t-shirts reading “Hands off my Social Security!” distributed informational leaflets to the assembled crowd.

Suddenly the hearing door opened and in he strode…Senator Bernie Sanders. The crowd jumped up, applauded, whistled and cheered. Mick Jagger could not have gotten a larger response. The Senator was frailer looking than I expected with bright, white hair. Then he spoke and a transformation took place…

“We will have your back!“

“You will have our back!”

“Together we will support President Obama!”

“This is not a time to be mushy.”

“Elections have consequences.”

Senator Sanders became young before my very eyes. It was amazing. The more passionate he became the younger he seemed to become.

Sanders introduced other like-minded elected officials including several members of the House Progressive Caucus (I had no idea there was such a thing), all of whom also vowed to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Then we heard from members of the audience with stories to tell about how the afore-mentioned programs had made differences in their lives and the lives of their families. I’m not one for pulling of the heart-strings, but it was hard not to be affected by what they were saying.

The Summit’s allotted time moved very quickly and before I knew it, it was over and so was my adventure. But your adventure can begin anytime. To find out about open hearings, just go to Congress.org schedule search.

I left the Summit rejuvenated and a little more upbeat about some of our House members and Senators. It made me feel better to see them get passionate about something and to think, perhaps, that they did have my back. And all it cost me was Metro fare to and fro. I urge you to take a visit to the Hill. Remember, elected officials are working for YOU.


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