History and Politics: A Level Pupils Travel to Washington DC
This term, seventeen A Level History and Government and Politics pupils departed for a long weekend in Washington DC.
It was an early start; we left for Heathrow at 6.30am for our flight around midday, and 12 hours later were arriving at our hotel in downtown Washington, just a few blocks from The National Mall. After a full day's travelling and dinner at the hotel the group was ready for three days of seeing what downtown DC had to offer.
On Friday morning we were met by Bryan, our guide, who was a former US Airforce officer who had flown VIP flights for a range of politicians. After a great breakfast we walked the short distance to the US Capitol, and were able to grab some amazing photos before the crowds arrived. From there it was a short walk to the Supreme Court, however as the court was not sitting there were none of the protestors who had been mounting a vigil since the appointment of Justice Kavanagh. After viewing the court room and a range of exhibits we then headed next door to the Library of Congress, an opulently decorated building that houses over 164 million items.
After lunch we headed to Ford's Theatre, site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. He was shot whilst watching the play ‘My American Cousin’; unfortunately his bodyguard had chosen an inopportune time to visit a local tavern. The museum outlines the events leading up to the fateful evening, whilst across the road at Petersen House, the site of Lincoln’s death several hours later, the story continues with John Wilkes Booth’s eventually death. After dinner at Hard Rock (many regretted having a starter and a main) we returned to the theatre to watch a political satire at the theatre, Born Yesterday, about Senate corruption in the 1950s.
On Saturday we started our morning back on Capitol Hill with a visit inside the US Congress. After a passing through Emancipation Hall we had a tour of parts of the building, including the Crypt, the Rotunda and the Old House of Representatives. After lunch at Union Station we met up again with Bryan for a historical walking tour of the Mall, with great views of the White House (alas President Trump was in Arizona), the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, and memorials to a range of conflicts including WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
The Vietnam War Memorial was particularly moving, with many veterans and family members remembering friends and loved ones who lost their lives in South East Asia. There was also a visit to the new Martin Luther King memorial, which was powerful and thought provoking. We then walked around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial (our ninth of the tour) before spending the evening at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, an out-of-town shopping mall anchored by Nordstrum and Macy’s. Needless to say, there were far more bags present in the taxis home!
On the final day we started at Arlington National Cemetery. By now we were feeling the pace so took advantage of the ‘hop on, hop off’ tour bus to go straight to the Memorial Amphitheatre, on the way passing the Kennedy gravesite, the Space Shuttle Challenger memorial and the Lockerbie Cairn. We witnessed a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (actually four tombs, although one is empty after the remains were identified through DNA and reburied). Our final visit was the Smithsonian Museum of American History. This included exhibits on Civil Rights, US Presidents and US elections, as well the Batmobile and Dorothy's red shoes from the Wizard of Oz!
Overall it was a fantastic trip, visiting all of the major sites and gaining real insight into the history and politics of Washington and the wider USA; the trip will be running next in Oct 2020, and will be offered to all A Level History and Government & Politics pupils.