Upon arrival February 24 in Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was instantly struck with a conflict in my greatly planned-out and organized schedule. The airline I had traveled to Washington, D.C., on had lost my luggage. This had every article of clothing I had brought for my weeklong stay in D.C.
Frustrated and frantic I reported the bag lost and was assured it would probably be found. I was beyond stressed as my taxi drove me from Baltimore into Washington, but the second I began to see all of the Washington icons out of my window, I was immediately enthralled. Fortunately my luggage arrived at the Omni Shoreham Hotel at 1:30 am later that night.
My first full day of working for CPAC was filled with an ocean of blue bags. The other volunteers and I were given the job of filling as many gift bags as possible to supply to each of the 9,000 conference attendees. An assembly line was formed, and my job for the next six hours was to place a book donated to the attendees in each of the individual blue bags. These hours were filled with paper cuts and tired feet, but the pain was quelled by the conversations I got to have with all the other volunteers who had, like me, traveled from all regions of the United States to attend CPAC.
The job I was assigned to for the actual week of conference events included registration and assistance of the conference Diamond Members. These were conference guests who bought tickets that allowed them to have reserved premier seating to all the speeches as well as other benefits. I was able to meet and speak to these guests – many of whom are leaders in the conservative movement. The learning experience I had from just speaking and discussing issues with these people made the entire trip worth the effort. However, I was also able to experience some of the conference as well.
The staff of the American Conservative Union was very helpful getting the volunteers into speeches, banquets and meetings. I was fortunate enough to see very moving speeches by Newt Gingrich, Michael Steele, Ann Coulter and, of course, Rush Limbaugh. I was also given the opportunity to meet Senator John Cornyn, Bill Bennett and Tom Delay, and all were very generous and interested to speak to me and other volunteers on a personal level.
Although we worked from about 6am to 9pm every day, I was not going to let the opportunities I had to explore Washington, D.C., pass me by. One of my fellow volunteers was a student in Washington, D.C., and offered to drive me and another volunteer to see some important D.C. icons. I was able to visit the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, walk down the Mall to visit the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The night was cold and rainy, but it just added to the beauty and solemnity of these monuments.