During the first semester of my junior year of high school I served as a United States Senate Page in Washington, D.C, for five months. I believe that it was the best five months of my life, thus far. There is an enormous difference between experiencing the workings of our legislative branch of government and learning about it in school or books. Though the Congressmen are the only representatives of our legislative branch that people see, it is the behind-the-scenes support team that really runs this branch of government. A small part of this support team is composed of Pages. Each Page class, one each semester, is composed of no more than thirty students from across the country who are appointed by some of the senators. Their position is both difficult and rewarding.

My typical Page day began at 5 a.m. School began at precisely 6:15, and tardiness promised a visit with the principal – a woman with whom a one-on-one conversation in that situation was not desirable, to say the least. Some days, school, which never lasted for more than three and a half hours, seemed to stretch on for an eternity, Sleep-deprived and exhausted, I often concentrated not on what the teachers were teaching, but rather solely on keeping my eyes open and my back straight. More than once, my English teacher opened me window to let the frigid morning breeze enter the classroom in an attempt to rouse me from my near slumber. (Be assured that this was not solely because of me – it was not uncommon for the entire class to be pulling their hair, pinching themselves, blinking rapidly, etc. in order to attempt to remain conscious.) It is one of the worst feelings in the world to want to stay awake and be physically unable to do so.

After school, I walked two blocks to the Hart Senate Office Building and took the underground subway that runs between the office buildings to the capitol. We arrived at least an hour before the Senate convened. This gave us ample time to ready the chamber for the day. Two people descended to the basement to pick up the Calendars, which, along with the Congressional Records, we placed on each of the senators’ desks. Two Pages were responsible for retrieving the gavel from the Sergeant at Arms’ office and this, along with the fountain pen that accompanied it, was positioned on the desk of the presiding officer, These were the two main morning duties, but they were accompanied by smaller tasks that the cloakroom staff directed us to carry out, such as getting them breakfast or running correspondence between the office buildings. When the Senate was ready to convene, those Pages not watching the doors assembled along one wall to take part in the morning ceremony. This consisted of the Pledge of Allegiance, and the prayer recited in the deep tones of the Senate Chaplain.

The rest of the day’s work depended on the business on the calendar. Some days we sat on me rostrum for hours on end while the chamber was in a Quorum Call, while other days we had four roll call votes in a row. No two days were ever the same and each day brought the possibility of excitement. One day we met Sean Astin who was visiting the Capitol. Another, I got Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autograph when I saw him in the hall. During one roll call vote, Sarah and I observed Richard Gere chatting with some of the senators. Each day we held doors and ran errands for famous politicians such as Hillary Clinton. Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, John McCain and many more. We also explored every nook and cranny of the Capitol. As Pages we had security clearance to go virtually anywhere in the building, and, by the time we left, were experts on the layout of the entire building.

One of the most memorable times in the Senate was in the middle of November. Republican senators had been pushing for the nomination of several judges, while the Democrats wanted to discuss what they believed were more important matters. For a few weeks, we had heard rumors of a filibuster, a circumstance where a senator or group of senators refuses to give up his or her right to speak. Finally, we were informed that Republican senators were planning a thirty-hour continuous debate to protest the Democrat opposition to the judicial nominees. At exactly 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night, all of the Republican senators marched into the chamber, a sight that we had never before seen. At least one Republican and one Democrat senator were on the floor until Friday morning. The debate was heated, but in some instances quite amusing for us Pages. We worked in shifts, as we could not be expected to stay awake for thirty hours. Some senators took a light-hearted attitude, joking and telling stories, while others were visibly angry at the proceedings. It was a long process, but we all knew that we would never again be in the same position during such an exciting Senate procedure.

Another of the highlights during my time in the Senate was the attendance of the State of the Union address, We were reminded constantly in the weeks before me event of how lucky we were to attend such a famous address. Usually the Spring Pages had the privilege of attending. As I marched from the Senate chamber through the Rotunda to the House chamber, I was exhilarated. Call me crazy, but I was amazed that I would be in the same room with the most prestigious leaders of our country witnessing firsthand the State of the Union address. I will be frank in admitting that I did not agree with some of the comments of the President, but, regardless, it was quite an experience. Though someday I hope to be seated in that chamber with a better view, I will never forget that hour.

Just as I will never forget that hour, I will never forget the numerous other experiences that I had during my tenure as a Page, I did and saw more in five months than some people do in a lifetime. I learned so much, not just about our government, but about myself and the world around me. I will be the first to admit that serving as a Senate Page is no piece of cake, but I would never discourage someone for applying for this position. I promise that anyone deciding to serve as a Senate Page will not regret the decision, rather it will be the best of their life.

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