We started our day at the center of it all: The Capitol building. She’s all dressed up and ready to go. The flags are perfectly positioned. The chairs are laid out in measured rows and the excitement is palpable. Wherever you go there are people good humoredly meandering in the painfully cold temperatures.
We had called our Senator and secured a Capitol tour that began at the new, and somewhat controversial, visitor’s center. You remember this one. The Senate majority leader talking about the "stinking" tourists and a ballooning budget that started at $71mm and ended at $621mm.
The facility is impressive, the tour somewhat less so. It starts out well enough. The movie is well produced and interesting but it’s a bit of a puzzle as to why, when the Senate and House are not in session, Americans coming to see the seat of the legislative branch of their government are not allowed to even take a look?
While the Capitol appears to be ready, there seem to still be a few kinks that need to be worked out. On the touch screen that begs you to "Look up your Senator". I happily chose Oregon and was greeted with pictures of Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith. Hmmm, I guess they haven’t updated it yet. But on second look the photo of Gordon Smith was captioned as Jeff Merkley. whoops.
The most exciting part was taking a peek down the staircase where President Obama will descend to take his oath of office. It was a strictly off limits area but just a glance was enough to make most of my fellow tour mates eyes well up with tears. The gravity of the moment is not lost on anyone.