Why Our Leaders in Washington Should Tour D.C.

Last week, my family went on vacation to Washington D.C. My wife and I had never been there, and after our children expressed some interest in American history at Mount Rushmore last year, we thought it would be a good summer destination. For the most part, it was. The monuments and memorials were extremely impressive. The wide range of museums offered up a plethora of fascinating, historical relics. The people we met, whether it be federal employees or fellow tourists, seemed generally friendly.

Throughout the trip though, the cynic in me was continually keeping an eye peeled for evidence. What kind of evidence? Well, I’ve always wondered what it is about Washington D.C. that changes the people who we elect to go there. I wanted to know what it was about the town that makes so many of our elected leaders forget that they work for us. I hoped to learn what it is, exactly, that leads them to believe that they’re there to build personal power and to extend their careers and prestige while routinely dodging and demagoguing the most dire problems our nation faces.

I started with the water. While it’s stunningly difficult to locate a water-fountain in Washington D.C., I eventually found one. While the taste of D.C. tap-water certainly didn’t stack up with what I’m used to here in Colorado, I found nothing peculiar with it and my family didn’t report any odd behavior from me afterwards. Well, nothing out of the usual anyway. So, it must not be the water that’s transforming our leadership.

Next, I checked out the buildings where these people work. We took tours of both the White House and The U.S. Capitol. While my family and I walked through these historic buildings, I watched the doorways for servants clad in togas blowing through trumpets, throwing rose petals into the air, and rolling out red carpets as politicians entered and exited rooms. I saw none of that. On the contrary, actually… I was surprised by the close proximity of these politicians’ offices to where the public is allowed to roam. I stood just outside the doors of the top big wigs in the U.S. Congress and just downstairs from the Oval Office. It seems to me that it would have to take some real effort by our leaders to scrape the futures of everyday Americans out of their minds when they’re routinely surrounded by our faces.

Could it be the humidity in the air? After leaving our hotel’s pool each evening, my family would drape our swimsuits across a shower-curtain rod overnight and find that 24 hours later, they still weren’t even close to being dry. Could D.C’s climate somehow be dampening the thought-processes of our leaders? Well, I kind of doubt it. If that were the case, half the country would be suffering from the same, mind-altering disorder.

I finally concluded that the ailment must stem from something unseen by the public – something not exuding from the town itself, but rather from an environment out of sight of most Americans. It lives and thrives somewhere behind the thick walls of those stately buildings where We the People are limited access. It’s a place where our leaders can unashamedly saddle future generations of Americans with a growing national debt of $16 trillion, endlessly intrude on our personal freedoms, and restrain entrepreneurs from creating wealth and jobs… all for purely political purposes. It’s an ugly place.

Washington D.C. itself, however, is not ugly. In fact, I found it incredibly interesting that our nation’s history, as taught by tour-guides and short-films within the historic halls of our federal institutions, paints a proud picture of just how our country became great. Clear insight is given into how our federal government is supposed to work, and what its proper role is, as designed by our founding fathers. Individual freedom is extensively hailed, as is our declared independence from an oppressive government. Our past leaders are honored for their humility and selflessness, and the American spirit and work-ethic are praised.

What is taught to Washington D.C. visitors today, as part of a federally-sanctioned curriculum, are the very same fundamentals that our current government and media regularly mock when those fundamentals are promoted by the Tea Party or libertarian-leaning politicians. There’s no mention of hand-outs and entitlements in the presentation – only the pursuit of happiness. There’s no demonizing of the wealthy, which most of our founding fathers were. Their success is presented in a favorable light.

Most importantly, the positions held by our public servants are accurately defined, and the limits of their power are applauded for the wisdom in which they were tailored.

How ironic it was that at the very same time I was watching a film in the U.S. Capitol that specifically spelled out the importance of our legislative branch and its distinction of powers from the executive branch, President Obama was announcing just a few blocks away that he was bypassing congress to change how our immigration laws are enforced.

An hour later, our Capitol tour-guide was explaining the significance of a historical portrait that documented George Washington resigning his commander-in-chief powers. In doing so, Washington denied himself a king’s chair in order to establish civilian-authority within our democracy. And as our guide spoke, pundits in the mainstream media were trumpeting our current president’s politically smart overstepping of his bounds.

It’s astonishing that our leaders in Washington so often seem completely oblivious to the history and framework that are so pridefully taught in the lobbies of the very buildings from where they serve. During campaign season, we often hear the term “disconnected” thrown around. It’s done so as a way to paint a political opponent as being out of touch with their constituents. It’s basically just an election-time tool. But it can be real too, as evidenced in its purest form inside the tall, white buildings that reside at the center of Washington D.C.

I believe that our leaders in Washington would do themselves, and those who they represent, an enormous favor by stepping out of their offices and going on a tour of D.C. If they listen to their guides and the informational films, they might actually learn something – even if its something they should have learned long before they ever ran for office.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • wally

    Amen to that John!

  • bkbht

    My guess is that only about half of all representatives there have evern been out among ‘the people’ visiting the city.  Washington D.C. is a beautiful and histori place. 

  • http://blog.alltheinfo.org/ Bob Weber

    I think most of our elected officials know our history, but just think that their pet issues should be exceptions to all the ‘freedom and democracy’.  Obama thinks that circumventing law and providing amnesty to certain groups of illegal immigrants is worthy of an exception.  Eric Holder thinks illustrating the problem with guns by selling them to Mexican gangs is worth an exception.  Nancy Pelosi thinks that undermining State’s rights and challenging Voter ID laws is an exception.  Republicans think financing the largest army on the planet to keep us free from terrorism is an exception. 

    I’m not sure it’s the knowledge of how our country was created that’s lacking, I think it’s the perception that more good can be done by cutting the corners in the framework that cause many politicians to do what they do.  Others are just bought and paid for and no tour of Washington will every help that.

  • Paul Courtney

    John:  You touch on my own theory, but I can’t take credit ’cause it’s a very old answer:  Money.  Any gov’t run by humans will be flawed, but mo’ money leads to mo’ flawed.  Fed, state and local gov’ts had corruption issues since the beginning, but introducing withholding of income & payroll tax has resulted in vast sums flowing to DC.  Congressmen who have previously managed household or even the most successful business budgets arrive in DC unprepared for the piles of cash at their feet.  Just saw numbers (not sure if it’s accurate, but good enough for my point) that annual fed revenue is 40% payroll and 42% income.  The payroll part is supposed to be spoken for, but it ALL gets spent (and then some)!  Mark Steyn has me convinced that we can only hope to restore order after a thorough financial collapse, we don’t have much hope of electing a majority of true conservatives in time to stop a collapse.

    • CCNV

       Along with that thorough financial collapse, we need a HUGE sinkhole to swallow up DC while in session. That way, we can start over…including term limits.

  • sendtheclunkerbacktochicago

    I was amazed at how lavish the House and Senate Offices were and how well staffed they are.  This does not count the multiple offices that these folks have in various cities across America.  We spent entirely too much money on these conveniences.  They are over paid and under worked.  That is the biggest waste of money ever!  Over the past couple of years I have learned to totally distrust the government and do not ever expect them to represent me when the time may come for me to need them.

    • John Daly

      I agree that the number of public employees in Washington is absurd. When we went into the White House Visitors Center (which is a block south of the White House), there were four armed guards working the little x-ray machine that they send personal belongings through on a belt. Keep in mind that this is a small building, that seemed to attract few people, and held nothing of great importance inside it.

      Yet, it took four guys to observe such a mundane process.

  • Kathie Ampela

    Power corrupts, the founders knew it. The answer for what’s wrong with Washington is not in the buildings, climate or water, it’s in all of us. 

     ”Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
    – Thomas Jefferson

  • Bruce A.

    The founding fathers of the US risked their lives, fortunes & families to establish this country.   What a let down the state of todays US must be for them.