Our first order of business was a discussion at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center by Charles Haynes. Mr. Haynes is the most educated man I know of on the issues of the First Amendment and how it pertains to the freedom of expression regarding religion.
A specific question I had about the Pledge of Allegiance and how this seems to be making an exit from our schools was met with an intelligent response. Mr. Haynes referred to freedom of conscience and said that if we were to abolish the Pledge from schools, it would create a slippery slope of no return. On the other hand, with the Pledge of Allegiance so common in our schools, the words “One nation, under God,” become a form of ceremonial deism that dilutes the religious underpinnings of the initial use of the words. As I said, the conversation was highly interesting.
After the conversation with Mr. Haynes, we flew across town to our rendezvous with Politico. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Politico is one of the quintessential newspapers both in print and on the Internet that Washingtonians (and the nation) read on a daily basis.
At Politico we met with G. Robert Hillman. Mr. Hillman gave us a tour of the facilities, (Politico shares office space with a local Virginia television station), then sat us down to talk of his job at the paper and what Politico aims to do on the Hill. We were fascinated to learn that such a prominent D.C. newspaper with such wide coverage employs such a small group of writers and editors – put it this way, they work the soles of their shoes day in and day out, 24/7!
After Politico we ate a brief lunch before heading back to the Capitol Building. Dan Weiser took us through on a tour of the Capitol. We are exceedingly grateful for the access Mr. Weiser granted us and for the time he took to show us around.
The section of the Capitol we went into was brand-new and only opened to visitors during the summer of last year. One of the first things we saw as we entered was a full-sized original plaster casting of the Liberty statue that stands on top of the dome of the Capitol. Dr. Kirk and Mr. Weiser stood in front, and I took the picture.
The interior of the dome of the Capitol was amazing. All the architecture, the beautiful murals, the absolutely gorgeous light that came streaming in from outside – it was all remarkable!
The whole trip was remarkable! I am forever grateful and humbled to have been chosen to be a part of this trip. All of the students on the trip were wonderful to be around, the faculty was professional and efficient, and the guest speakers were knowledgeable and insightful.
To those who’ve never been on the Hill, who’ve never experienced Hilltop on the Hill, I only have to say that not to go would be tantamount to cheating yourself out of a life-enriching – and for some a life-changing – experience. Take advantage of the opportunities you’re given and run with it!