D.C. Week 4

Burning Man Exhibit at the Smithsonian Renwick Museum.

Burning Man Exhibit at the Smithsonian Renwick Museum.

Rosalie Toupin ’20

Living in Washington, D.C. has been a unique experience for me. The city is centered around politics and filled with people who want to make a difference not only for the United States, but for the world. While leaving the comfort of Smith has been difficult for me, the experience has been undoubtedly worth it to study, work and live in this vibrant, politically charged city. To counterbalance my previous posts that mainly focus on the challenges I’ve faced while studying off campus, I would like to take this time to highlight some of the opportunities I’ve had during my summer and fall semester in Washington, D.C.

1. Exploring the Smithsonians

One of my favorite things about DC is all of the free Smithsonian museums. There are 19 Smithsonians around the city, including the National Portrait Museum — which has Michelle and Obama’s famous portraits — the Archives — where you can see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — and the new African American History and Culture Museum. Since they are all federally funded, you can walk right in without paying a cent. During the summer, my fellow interns and I would go to the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden every Friday after work to enjoy the live jazz and cool off by dipping our feet in the pool. While there is something to appreciate in every Smithsonian, my favorite is the National Zoo. It’s not every day that you can casually go see some elephants, seals and a baby gorilla all for free.

2. Congressional Baseball Game

I started off my time in the capital of the United States properly with a good ol’ baseball game. But this one had a bit of a twist. Every year, Members of Congress compete against each other in a game of baseball to raise money for local charities. Both spectators (mostly Congressional staffers coming to support their bosses) and players are split along party lines. While there were no home runs or impressive plays, it was really fun to cheer with and for my fellow Democrats and to watch representatives take each other out on the field. The occasional, “Let’s save the ACA!” chants were also greatly appreciated.

3. Colonial Williamsburg

This summer, my roommates and I took a mini road trip to Colonial Williamsburg in southern Virginia. The living history museum replicates what life was like in the 18th century. We spent the day wandering around the cobblestone streets, talking with actors in colonial dress and eating traditional dishes from the time period. Overall, the fun of exploring areas outside of D.C. was well worth the six-hour drive down and back, as well as braving the hot southern heat.

4. Meeting Justice Sonia Sotomayor

I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to hear Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — the first Latina to sit on the court — talk about her newest books. Justice Sotomayor’s memoir, “My Beloved World,” was released in 2014. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading it! It covers her life as a child growing up in the Bronx through her law career before being appointed to the Supreme Court. To make her story more accessible for younger generations, Justice Sotomayor published two more versions of her memoirs as a YA chapter book — “The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor” — and a picture book — “Turning Pages” —  all of which are published in English and Spanish. At the reading event, Justice Sotomayor had all of the children sit at the foot of the stage and only answered their questions. While her answers may have been simplified for the given audience, her messages of curiosity, kindness and perseverance were still deeply inspiring and brought tears to my eyes.

5. Fourth of July on the Capitol Steps

This summer, I sat on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to watch the Fourth of July concert and fireworks show at the National Mall. It was an incredibly moving experience to listen to Renée Fleming sing, “God Bless America,” while the sky behind the Washington Monument sparkled. I couldn’t help but think about all of the monumental legislation passed behind me in Congress and the history of resistance that persisted before me along the mall. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude not just for my country, but for the people who work tirelessly each day to make it a better place for everyone.

Sophian Smith