I Can’t Believe I Was There

United States Capitol, January 25, 2011

I like to think that I have a decent vocabulary.  I’d also like to think that if I had to describe a situation, any situation, I’d have a wide array of words at my disposal in which to choose.  But as I sat in The House of Representatives Gallery last night at the United States Capitol, listening to the State of the Union Address, I realized that I couldn’t really fully describe the situation, not with just ordinary words.  The President of the United States was standing directly in front of me, less than 100 feet away.  The First Lady was seated to my right, maybe 50 feet away.  And directly below me were the more than 500 members of the 112th Congress.

Somehow, I ended up with one of the best seats in the House.  Pun intended, but true.  From my vantage point I could see everyone and everything.  And when the President entered the room was the very moment that I truly realized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime type moment.  For at least thirty minutes I expected someone to come tap me on the shoulder and ask me what I was doing there.  It really was a big deal.  Pomp and circumstance were on full display.  And I’m pretty sure that our politicians are well aware of all the TV cameras, photographers, and media.  They seem to really soak up the bright lights.

As for me, I don’t think I blinked for two straight hours as I scanned the room non-stop, trying to gather every bit of information possible.  Cell phones were not permitted, so photos were not an option.  But the room itself is very bright, and it has such a surreal feel to it that it almost looks like a movie set.

The setting is so intimate, with about 1,000 people in the room that I actually forgot how many millions were watching on television.  That’s when I decided that I needed to start listening more closely to the speech and spend less time scanning the crowd like a rube from North Dakota.  The speech itself seemed pretty normal, about an hour and five minutes long.  President Obama spoke at length about business, technology and the like.  But his best points were when he discussed teachers in our country.  ”We need to praise the good ones and stop making excuses for the bad ones.”  That struck a nice note.  It was interesting to watch the members of Congress during the speech.  Whether they stood and applauded pretty much was divided right down the party lines.

I could go on for an hour, but suffice it to say that my mind still hasn’t wrapped itself all the way around the events of the evening.  At one point, within 30 seconds, Hillary Clinton and House Majority Leader John Boehner walked within a foot of me down a hallway as I leaned casually against a statue of someone important.  I was trying to blend in.  I’m not sure if I did.  I’m sure I will add some more in the next day or two, but for now it’s back to work as a TV guy on Capitol Hill.

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6 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe I Was There

  1. That is so cool! As a history teacher, (hopefully one of the good ones President Obama was talking about), I am truly envious, of both your once in a lifetime opportunity to be present at the State of the Union Address, and your trip to D.C.! Who said history can’t be fun?!

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