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Capitol State of Mind

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Reagan National Airport. Local time is 2:33 p.m., and the temperature is 78 degrees. On behalf of American Airlines and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the near future.
Have a nice stay.

Although I’ve spent my fair share of time in Washington, D.C., I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I’m fairly sure that the excitement is written on my face. We quickly exit the plane and find our way to baggage claim. Twenty short minutes later, I’ve managed to snuggle a Boston terrier and retrieve my luggage. I’d call that a success. Now the real adventure begins.

Three days + Three scholars + Our beautiful nation’s capital = Memories for a lifetime.

As a girl from a small town in Tennessee, visiting Washington, D.C. wasn’t necessarily a destination that ever crossed my mind as a trip I’d like to make. However, during the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to intern for the American Farm Bureau Federation. Over the course of three months, I fell in love with our nation’s capital. So when I was offered the chance to return for a short period during my summer as a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, I jumped at it.

Joining me on the trip were two fellow scholars, Allie Williams and Barrett Moore; our supervisor, Amy Hays; and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey. Our primary goal was to visit with Oklahoma legislators and their staff, the House Agriculture Committee staff, and staff of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to talk agriculture issues and career advice.

exampleAllie Williams, Barrett Moore and Samantha Beard at the House Ag Committee.

Day 1: Wednesday, June 28

We arrived in the District on Wednesday afternoon with enough time to grab a bite to eat from the famous food trucks before making the short hike to the Capitol buildings for our first meeting. During our meeting, we met with one of Sen. James Lankford’s legislative assistants and discussed a recent issue in the livestock hauling sector among other agriculture issues. The meeting passed quickly, and before I knew it we were back at the hotel and planning our adventures for the evening.

However before any adventures were to be had, our hunger needed to be addressed. So we went in search of food and found ourselves at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant. As we walked into the restaurant, servers were rushing around with huge plates of pastas, salads and desserts. After much deliberation, and advice from our server, we decided to split two plates of pasta and a plate of salad. One hour later and we were moaning from having eaten too much, but we did not regret a single bite … Well maybe the last twenty or so, but they were totally worth it.

exampleBarrett Moore eating Carmine’s pasta.

Stuffed to the max, we hit the streets of D.C. for a night of sightseeing. First stop: CVS. Yes, we stopped at a CVS first to pick up some much needed socks for Barrett. Then we were on to our first attraction of the night: the White House. On our way, we passed by Trump International Hotel, where we snapped a few photos and walked through an impromptu dance party. We finally made it to the president’s home, and stared in awe. It seemed they were having an event because many of the pathways were blocked off, and officers were patrolling the area.

We had planned to hit up the Lincoln Memorial next; but due to the increased security, we didn’t have a direct route. So we made our way to the Washington Monument instead. As we approached the monument, pictures were snapped, facts were spoken and selfies were taken. From the Washington Monument, there is a clear view of not only the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln but also the Capitol building. I am a firm believer that our capital is best viewed at night. The monuments are highlighted with lights, and everything seems much calmer than during the heat of the day.

Once everyone had their fix of the Washington Monument, we decided to call it a night and return to the hotel. Step count for the day: 23,995 steps.

Day 2: Thursday, June 29

The following morning we woke up bright and early, and made our way to the Oklahoma Prayer Breakfast. We enjoyed a light breakfast and wonderful communion with legislators, staff and other Oklahomans.

After the breakfast, we were escorted through the tunnels of the Capitol buildings by a legislative assistant for Rep. Markwayne Mullin. While we walked, the legislative assistant discussed her journey to Washington, D.C., and her future aspirations. Once we arrived at the House buildings, we talked for a short time longer before moving on to our next meeting. On our way out of the office, we ran into Rep. Mullin, and he graciously took a few moments to speak with us.

exampleAllie Williams, Samantha Beard, Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Barrett Moore.

Then we were off to our next meeting with several of the House Agriculture Committee staff. When we arrived, we were escorted to the House Agriculture Committee hearing room, where we would be meeting. After a very informative and interesting meeting with their staff, we had a chance to explore the room and snap a few photos inside and out on the balcony. It was by far one of my favorite meetings.

exampleSamantha Beard, Barrett Moore and Allie Williams inside the Ag Committee hearing room.

exampleAmy Hays, Samantha Beard, Allie Williams, Barrett Moore and Michael Kelsey outside the Ag.

Committee hearing room.

Our next meeting was with a staff member of Rep. Jim Bridenstine. While discussing life and agriculture issues, we were graced with the presence of Oliver, the office cocker spaniel. Happiness. Pure happiness. It was quite an enjoyable meeting, if I do say so myself.

After a quick lunch, we made our way to Rep. Frank Lucas’ office. Rep. Lucas was gracious enough to take a few moments to provide us with life advice and instructions to always do what you love. He is quite a wonderful individual, and we were very lucky to have the chance to meet with him.

Our afternoon meetings with staff of Rep. Tom Cole and Sen. Jim Inhofe consisted of life advice and explanations of committee assignments and the role staff members play on a legislator’s team.

At the conclusion of our final meeting of the day, we returned to the hotel to change into comfortable walking shoes and clothes before hitting the National Mall again.

exampleAllie Williams, Michael Kelsey, Samantha Beard, Amy Hays and Barrett Moore on the National Mall in front of the Washington Monument.

Our meal for the night was eaten at Farmers and Distillers, a restaurant owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. Let me say, we did a mighty fine job determining where we would dine for our trip because the food was remarkable.

Upon completion of our meal, we decided against our walking shoes and rented a few bikes for our night-time adventures. They say you never forget how to ride a bike; but if you haven’t done it in a while, it can be slightly rough. First stop: WWII Memorial. Second stop: Lincoln Memorial. Did you know there was a mistake at the Lincoln? Well there is, and if you’re ever in D.C., you should definitely try to find it. Third stop: Korean War Memorial. Fourth stop: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Fifth stop: Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Final stop: Jefferson Memorial.

Memories were made, pictures taken, and many steps taken. Total step count for the day: 19,962 steps.

Day 3: Friday, June 30

The following morning, we packed up our suitcases and jumped in an Uber to take us to the offices of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. There we met with several staff members and discussed their journeys to their positions and life advice. I was surprised to find that two of the three staff members we met with didn’t come from an agriculture background. They had previously worked on the Hill and were tasked with gathering information on agriculture issues to assist with policy-making decisions. It was through this that they found an interest in agriculture policy.

After lots of great conversation, it was time for us to head to the airport for our departure. Our time in Washington, D.C., had come to a close. It was a memorable trip full of lots of advice for the future and many new contacts. For me and my fellow scholars, it was a trip of a lifetime that left us all with a Capitol state of mind.

Samantha Beard is a 2017 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Eagleville, Tennessee.