Hilltop on the Hill, 2013 Inauguration

Twenty-one communication studies and journalism students are in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 as part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Hilltop on the Hill program. In addition to reporting on Inaugural events, the students will visit media and government sites, and meet with political communicators, journalists and SMU alumni. The trip is led by Rita Kirk, professor of communication studies; Daniel Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, and Carolyn Barta, journalism professor. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the Hilltop on the Hill program also takes students studying political communication to political party conventions and the G8 Economic Summit.

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Thank you to our representatives in Washington

An update from Kathryn, a sophomore communication studies and public policy major:

Before knowing who our president was going to be for the next four years, I began hassling my local congressman, Kevin Brady of Montgomery County, Texas, for tickets to attend the inauguration. The first phone call I made to his 8th Congressional District office was one of the more intimidating things I have done. Clearly his staff is accomplished and intelligent, and the thought of how easily they could reject me was frightening. They took my name and we exchanged a few emails; then I was placed on the list as a potential for a ticket.

Coming from a very rural part of Texas, I felt a little more confidence in being a ticket recipient once election results were broadcasted. I decided to be “daring” and sent an email asking for a second ticket. A quick reply was given, but no word ever came about being granted a ticket. About a week before leaving for D.C., I received a congratulatory email because I was permitted two tickets. The email also said when and where to pick them up: before 4 p.m. on Sunday and in Kevin Brady’s office.

I clearly wasn’t thinking about how much it takes to put on an event like the inauguration when I started my trek toward Capitol Hill at 3 p.m. Sunday. We fought with traffic for thirty minutes, encountering road closure after road closure, and then decided that the only way we could make it on time would be by foot. I don’t know if anyone has ever managed to walk three miles in thirty minutes, but I can assure you that An, Sarah, and I did not become the first.

I called Congressman Brady’s office about fifteen minutes before 4 p.m., frantic that they were going to tell me I missed my chance and that was that. That isn’t what happened. They waited for us, and then when we showed up thirty minutes late, offered us desserts and beverages. Not only that, they dug for the best tickets they had and offered us more! I realized that yes, these staffers do work for a very important part of our country and are so smart, but they are also real people. I had no need to feel intimidated by them.

When I went back to the office Tuesday to say thank you for the opportunity, I was greeted by the same real people as Sunday. I got an office tour, and then we just kind of hung out talking about things – from Johnny Manziel to the man in a tree constantly screaming about abortion during the inauguration to the meeting about the budget Kevin Brady was in at that moment. It was a phenomenal experience, and on my way out the door I was asked if I would like to intern this summer. My resume is already sitting in their inbox.

It was awesome to see for myself that people in Washington are genuine and truly care about their constituents. The anxiety caused by the thought of speaking to a government office has been overcome.

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