On the Road to DC
As the time to greet our new president arrived, the LEAP Ambassadors likewise neared their “D.C. destination.” But before braving overwhelming Inauguration crowds at the Capitol, the Ambassadors enjoyed quiet visits to two other states, specifically the statehouse where our nation first declared independence and the statehouse where George Washington did not reign, but did once resign.
Delaware’s State Houses
The first item on the agenda today was a visit to the Delaware State Capitol, known locally as Legislative Hall, and the old statehouse where the state legislature used to meet. We began with a tour of the statehouse provided by a most enthusiastic tour guide, Mr. Thomas Welch. Interestingly, the retired docent has been giving tours since the building was re-opened to the public in 2007. He explained in great detail the history of how Delaware broke away from Pennsylvania, use of the old capital by both state and county governments, and the history of many of the delegates who served in the earliest years of Delaware’s statehood. The building itself was initially used both as a county courthouse (on the first floor)…
and the House and Senate chambers of the state legislature (on the upper level). In the first few years of their statehood, Delaware had only nine state Senators…
…and twenty-one Representatives…
…one of whom, Allen McLane, Mr. Welch has gone on to learn about extensively, including lecturing statewide and writing McLane’s biography.
The newer capitol building in use is much larger, though not the most opulent of the state capitols LEAPsters have visited.
The building has undergone renovations since its original construction, with many of the windows in both House and Senate chambers once on exterior walls now blocked by new interior walls. To make the space more aesthetically pleasing, the Legislature hired Jack Lewis, a famous Delaware artist, to paint murals in the frames of the removed windows. The murals depict the history of and many famous people from Delaware, such as local hero Caesar Rodney.
After roaming the small building after our tour, and running into a committee hearing on marijuana legislation…
…and playing “Speaker of the House…”
…we made it back to our mini-van to meander through Maryland.
Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs
Our day continued with a detour to Annapolis, Maryland. We were on the hunt for Baltimore’s crab cakes, but the siren song of still another capitol was hard to overcome. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and headed instead for Annapolis, MD, where we weaved through cobblestone streets on the search for some authentic East Coast seafood. After consulting with an Annapolis local, we decided on Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs. According to our new Maryland friend it was a classic, which meant it had to be good! We indulged in a variety of dishes including the Seafood Gumbo and the Rockfish Annapolis (rockfish covered with a creamy crab sauce served over a bed of rice). We enjoyed eating “local,” the hot lunch welcome on another chilly day.
Maryland’s State House
A short walk to the Capitol building allowed us to embark on a short, self-guided tour of the Georgian-style building.
After visiting the Delaware capitol in Dover that morning, the Maryland capitol in Annapolis was grand in comparison. Immediately upon entering, the House and Senate chambers greeted guests on opposite sides. Black and white tile lined the halls and led visitors to each room throughout the first floor. We learned that the Maryland General Assembly has 47 Senators…
….and 141 Delegates in the House of Delegates.
Further back in the Capitol is the Old State House and the Old State Senate which explained the rich and interesting history associated with Maryland. In the Senate chambers, George Washington gave his resignation speech on December 23, 1783. He felt that his job leading the country was complete and that it was time to return home to his wife Martha. Today a bronze life-sized statue of Washington stands in the place he spoke some 234 years ago.
The self-guided tour also included the original paper copy of George Washington’s resignation speech. Our time in Annapolis was short and enjoyable, but we were eager for our main destination, the Capitol of the United States of America.
As we hurried past Maryland’s forested hills, our surroundings changed from a rural landscape to the hustle and bustle of the DC streets, with much accompanying honking. Even though the streets of our nation’s capital are always busy, on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, even the narrow alleys seemed as if they would burst with cars and pedestrians. In this ocean of tourists from all over the nation and world, the LEAP Ambassadors wrestled their way towards the Washington Monument.
At the foot of this near pearl-colored obelisk, the immensity of the monument forced us to strain our necks in order to gaze at its glory from bottom to peak. While admiring this great American treasure, Kaitlyn wondered whether we could reach the top. Disappointed by the Monument’s temporary closure for maintenance, this crafty Ambassador chose to reach the peak from the ground with the tip of her fingers.
After a few pictures, we noticed–and then joined–crowds of excited Trump supporters…
…on their procession towards the Lincoln Memorial.
As we neared the memorial the multitude of red “Make America Great Again” hat wearers grew to the point that we could move no closer to the concert stage set up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
There we stood listening to excited “USA!” and “Trump!” shouts echoing from every corner of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
At one point it was announced that President-Elect Donald Trump was present on stage and the crowd roared with animation.
Such a spirit was so contagious for some of the LEAP Ambassadors that they could not resist another temptation–souvenir vendors. Several bought Trump merchandise to forever remember the 2017 Inauguration eve. A couple in the group actually voted for Trump; others just wanted a souvenir (without Trump’s image) to document their presence at a historic event.
With a bag full of red hats and Trump pins, we left DC to catch only a few of hours of sleep, but not before some extremely rural looking individuals walking through the National Mall. Of course, the media converged on them, and soon began an interview:
Spanning several stops through Delaware and Maryland, and still feeling the fatigue of Philly, we would need as much rest as we could get before embarking on our presidential adventure at the crack of dawn (or as some would argue, before then).
The LEAP Ambassadors are a bi-partisan group. The students signed up for this trip before knowing who would win, and Trump, Clinton, and third-party supporters attended this trip to be part of this historic event. It is the fourth presidential inauguration the LEAP Ambassadors have attended.