Places to Go (Vacation) - Democracy in Action at the Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, VA)
Alfonso Lopez, our local delegate for the Virginia General Assembly, has a son who attends the same grade school as my children. Every year, at the school's auction, Alfonso auctions off a personal tour of the State Capitol and every year someone outbids us at the last minute (seriously - EVERY YEAR!). So after our most recent loss, Alfonso said that even if we didn't technically "win", we still could come visit him at the Capitol anytime. Awesome, right?
The only glitch was that we really wanted to see the Capitol in action - heated floor debates, impassioned filibusters, nasty back-room deals (apparently I watch too much House of Cards). But the Virginia General Assembly only meets 45 days in odd-numbered years (60 days in even numbered years), so in order to see halls full of our Delegates and Senators, we decided to pull the kids out of school on February 27, the last day of session.
I thought this would be a fun way to teach the kids about democracy, but turns out Dan and I learned a lot as well. For example, did you know that the VA General Assembly has existed since 1619? Making it the the oldest continuous law-making body in the Western Hemisphere.
We arrived early to the General Assembly, so we checked out the building's cafe. Turns out views from the deck were gorgeous.
F and her grandfather. Sometimes candids look rather, um, unplanned.
Thomas Jefferson designed the Assembly building (or at least recommended the Roman temple to copy for the building) and chose the hilltop location, as he seemed to dabble in everything.
Eventually we made our way to Alfonso's office, where the kids received activity kits and pins. Free stuff = happiness, even when everything is educational.
After a quick tour of the General Assembly building, we made our way over to the Capitol. The state of Virginia commissioned the George Washington statue during Washington's lifetime. The sculptor used a life mask and other measurements of Washington himself, thus it is considered the most accurate depiction of our first President. (Apparently, like me, Washington also had a bit of a tummy problem).
P didn't want to give up the seat of power.
While Alfonso had meetings (which, I'm sure, were very House of Cards-esque), we took a tour of the Capitol building. Jefferson, Pocahontas, several Confederate leaders - lots of US history in one building.
And for the grand finale - we witnessed democracy in action from the visitors' gallery. Unfortunately, the kids were pretty tired by this point and the votes we saw weren't exactly thrilling because on the last day of the session, they apparently vote on lots of stuff that's not very controversial. But some month has to be Virginia's Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (congratulations March 2015!), and we got to watch the vote that made it happen! Anyway, I think the kids got the picture, or at least part of it - they have a big scoreboard that shows how each delegate votes on each bill, and T kept asking why they were all voting for green.
And here we are with our awesome state delegate. I highly suggesting meeting your own delegate and asking for a tour. Sometimes learning about the past is exactly what you need to become excited for the future.