From blessing the rains down in Africa to racing up Smithsonian stairs to touring the monuments under a full moon, I and 30 members of the Penn State College Democrats did plenty during our weekend in Washington D.C. to unify our club even further.
Two Fridays ago I was behind the wheel of my car driving four hours, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack with my passengers and anticipating our arrival. That night, we walked from our hotel downtown to the White House. There, about one hundred people were gathered, called on by a Facebook event gone viral to sing “Africa” by Toto. A guitar and ukulele accompanied our voices as we murmured the half of the song’s lyrics we remembered and laughed at the half we forgot. The lights from our phones and from inside the White House illuminated the night sky.
We took a break from college dining halls to indulge in some city food. I watched Penn State take on Northwestern in a restaurant bar while sharing a basket of buffalo chicken fingers. We won, and Oklahoma lost its game, ensuring our rank as number three in the new AP poll. I found some fellow Rick and Morty enthusiasts in our group and set out on a mission — which we unfortunately failed — to get limited-time Szechuan sauce from McDonald’s.
We visited and took photos at the Capitol against a blue sky in 85-degree weather despite it being October. Inside, we observed models depicting D.C’s evolution and growth around the Capitol. We visited a few of the many infamous Smithsonian museums. I and several others took our marks and raced up the flights of stairs to the American Art Museum. We gazed upwards at the airplanes hanging by cables from the ceiling of the Air and Space Museum.
The trip to D.C was both a chance to meet with prominent organizations and plan our own education rally but, maybe more importantly, gave new club members a chance to get to know each other. Our 30-person group occupied nearly an entire hallway of double rooms in the Holiday Inn we stayed at. We had to be quiet to avoid disturbing unsuspecting guests, but we met up in our hotel rooms at nights. We engaged in general shenanigans, playing games with an abundance of icebreakers. Several of us spoke in turn about how grateful we were to be so involved in a club so early on.
Before I manned the steering wheel and waved goodbye to the city, we did my favorite thing of the weekend: a night tour of the monuments. There was a full moon and purple sky when we arrived at the Washington Monument. I stood against its side — with my counterparts doing the same — and looked straight up to notice how much taller the 550-foot spire appeared while lit up at night. We sat together on the steps of the Lincoln monument around midnight and walked to the World War II, Korean, War Veterans, FDR and Thomas Jefferson Memorials.
This year being my first in the club, I hardly knew anyone when I left campus that Friday. After a weekend of music, socializing and exploring, I felt like I had made some friends and even felt like I belonged.
Penn State College