Political Science in Washington, 2013

As part of the University Honors Program political science course “Law, Politics and the Supreme Court,” students and Political Science Associate Professor Joe Kobylka are spending spring break 2013 in Washington, D.C. The students are conducting research on Supreme Court cases at the Library of Congress.

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Joining the Library of Congress community

An update from Anna, a senior majoring in history and anthropology, who is conducting research on sex discrimination under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection clause:

I haven’t even been in Washington, D.C., for a full day yet, and I’m already feeling like my time here is going to pass by too quickly, much faster than I’d like. With less than a week to look through the justices’ papers — their journals, notes, and scholarly works — I have a wonderful but somewhat daunting task ahead of me.

Yesterday, the class took the early (really early) morning flight out of D/FW… just 24 hours after daylight savings kicked in, too! I looked around the plane, and it seemed like almost everyone was zonked out right after takeoff. Not that I blame them; even with coffee it was hard to stay awake.

Technically, we landed 15 minutes early but sat on the runway waiting for our gate to open up until our scheduled arrival time, so does that really count as early? A quick stop at the hotel to drop off our bags, and by afternoon we were standing outside the Library of Congress buildings… amazing! First stop: the reader cards. I’ve got to say, that was pretty impressive.

And after that, Professor Kobylka escorted us over to the Jefferson building, which is the oldest of the three Library of Congress buildings. The interior was breathtaking. We were surrounded by huge vaulted ceilings, beautifully painted walls and ceiling panels, and inspiring phrases on the walls meant to encourage studious behavior.

Probably the best part of the experience was when we were allowed access into the main manuscript room (courtesy of our wonderful reader cards) and given an opportunity to peruse the books and materials within the manuscript room. As a history major, I have to confess that it was almost overwhelming, standing there amid some of the most impressive scholarship our nation has ever known. For just a moment, while taking it in, all I could think was: How can I ever measure up to that?

So it’s early Tuesday morning (really early, plus another time zone), and I know that in just a few short hours I’ll finally have a chance to work in the Madison building manuscript room — a space dedicated to the highest level of learning and scholarly endeavors — and I, too, will finally become part of the Library of Congress scholarly community… I just hope that I’m worthy of the many scholars who came before me.

This is a trip of a lifetime, and I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity and the chance to experience history as I’ve only read about it. And now, I’m off to the Library of Congress… until later, all.

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