A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Manifest Destiny ... one note card at a time!

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (mural study, U.S. Capitol)
Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze 
Born: Schwabisch-Gmund, Germany 1816 
Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1868 
oil on canvas 33 1/4 x 43 3/8 in. (84.5 x 110.1 cm.) 
Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Sara Carr Upton 
Smithsonian American Art Museum

We just started a new project in class looking at westward expansion. Teams have taken on topics ranging from the Trail of Tears to King Cotton to the Kansas Nebraska Act in order to wrestle with the idea of American Manifest Destiny. Their final product will be Prezis (think PowerPoints for non-linear thinkers). I'm treating this as a mini-research project and so they are having to use notecards, bib cards and MLA7 citations. This is their first foray into this style of research and my oft used quote is from the movie, The Waterboy ... "Yoo can do eet!" [Imagine my best Rob Schneider Cajun accent].
The painting above is impressive in person. It is by the same artist who painted Washington Crossing the Delaware and the mural in the rotunda of the US Capitol. I'm going to hope against all hope and pray Blogger solved our commenting issue and invite students to offer their insights on this painting. Sorry, no extra credit, candy bars or ... well, nothing. Just wanted to hear your insights.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wanna see your Prezi?

The information we've been collecting in class and I've been loading into the Prezi is two-thirds done but I wanted to show you it as a work in progress. I made it orange in honor of Halloween but we will decide on a formal format next week. Note that all but the LP map has its source listed. Note that grammar rules have been suspended which made Mrs. Cornett frown at me.:)
What are we missing? What should we add? If you are done with your homework this weekend, see what Lord Google might suggest. You might also fire up a book on the Louisiana Purchase, too. There are these places called libraries ... ;)
BTW-I was so inspired by our Cosmosphere visit that I went outside after the dance and stargazed for a bit. Saturday will be a beautiful night to do that as well.

This is a painted bison pelt Lewis sent to Jefferson. It hangs in the foyer of Monticello. (Source: Mr. Mc.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Something is rotten in the state of ..." Blogger

Ask Mrs. Cornett about the quote ... ya'll will hit Shakespeare this quarter and it from one of his plays.

I know many of you are joining the blog and trying to comment. I've extended the extra credit to this end of this week to get everyone on board and I will accept an emailed comment as we work all this out. Blogger says there is nothing wrong except ya'll can't post ... grrr.

Anyway, wanted to tease a little Lewis and Clark for next Tuesdays trip to the Cosmosphere. These are from the Library of Congress and are the two sides of Indian Peace Coins given to the tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Down by the riverside ....

This painting is titled, Washington Crossing the Delaware and is by Emanuel Luetze. We started the discussion in class but I wanted to keep it going this week. Remember 15 extra credit points are available for joining the blog and adding at least one comment. Please remember to use just your initials in for screen name.
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Luetze. 1851. Oil on Canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can we trust Paul Revere?

We've been looking at the ramp up to the Revolutionary War and today we talked about the Sons of Liberty, virtual versus actual representation and the Boston Massacre. We explored the engraving by Paul Revere titled, Bloody Massacre. I've told my students that people are tired of me paraphrasing and so some of them are going to get online and offer their own thoughts. Today we just analyzed the engraving. Tomorrow we'll compare what Revere drew versus the actual testimony of the soldiers, witness and the lawyers at the trial.

Bloody Massacre, engraving by Paul Revere
Taken from the Gilder Lehrman Institute website

Monday, October 3, 2011

Flat Stanley goes to Washington

I was invited to a Bill of Rights Institute Colloquium last week and decided to visit the scene of the crime while I was there.

First of all, the colloquium was excellent. Great discussion and really pushed me as both a student of the constitution as well as a teacher of said document. Six hours of discussion on executive power. From Washington's Neutrality Act to war powers after 9.11. I love the give and take and enjoy listening to what my colleagues have to say. If you ever have a chance to attend-do it.

But back to Flat Stanley. The students made me a Flat Stanley and he had a heck of a trip. Here are some of his exploits.

Flat Stanley at O'Hare

Flat Stanley enjoying the O'Hare Field Museum exhibit

Flat Stanley and the Obamas

Flat Stanley did his homework!

Flat Stanley and Achelous and Hercules

Flat Stanley and the bull

Flat Stanley agrees, "Go Hercules!"

Flat Stanley and his favorite DC lunch

Flat Stanley confronting colonialism

Flat Stanley chillin' with Marilyn

Flat Stanley has a mancrush on Jemmy too!

A 'piece'-able kingdom

A couple weeks ago we tried the Zoom In strategy in class. We used the Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks. There are several versions of the piece and I used the one from the Dallas Museum of Art. That print was the first piece of art Maggie and I bought as a married couple so I know this piece.
For Zoom In, you show only segments of the piece at a time and then let the students interpret and guess what will be in the next piece. When the next segment is shown in relationship to the first, they have to go to the original premise and decide if it was correct and if they need to adjust their hypothesis.
Zoom in—Day one
What do you see or notice? 
What is your hypothesis or interpretation of what this might be based on your interpretation?

Zoom in-Day two
What new things do you see?
How does this change your hypothesis or interpretation?
Has the new information answered any of your wonderings or changed your previous ideas?
What new things are you now wondering about?

Same process for each day

Peaceable Kingdom
Edward Hicks (American, 1780-1849)
Oil on canvas
Dallas Art Museum

I have to admit, the kids did a great job on this piece. I don't think, however, I facilitated as well as I had in the past. Part of the problem is that I know this piece and I think I tried to 'lead' more than I tried to listen. I own this piece and see it every day and so I have clear ideas about the piece-and I couldn't get out of the way or that. My conceptions about the piece became the lightning rod and, so, colored what insights the kids might have had. Again, neutrality is key to a good discussion.

Hopefully, I've learned my lesson and will be a better facilitator next time we use Zoom In.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"It looks like a gunshot through Montana!"

The first week of school is a odd time in the life of a school. The kids are still stretching from a three month nap.They are excited to see old friends and embracing the 'school' part of school is a necessary evil in order to see said friends. The teachers are in the midst of a ten yard dash to get ready for students. They are chomping at the bit to talk, discuss, instruct, show, play, and ... (let's be honest teachers, laminate!) Its a dynamic I wish I could explain to those who don't spend  a lot of time in a classroom.

This year I thought I would try one of the Smithsonian strategies out and see if it would work. We called it "Artwork of the Week" and here is what we did:

State Names. 2000. Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. Born: St. Ignatius, Montana 1940. oil, collage and mixed media on canvas. 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase. 2004.28.

On the first or second day of school they saw this painting projected on the SMARTboard. No discussion.
For the next couple of days after they made observations using a process called VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies). VTS is pretty easy to explain but challenging to actually do (more on that later). The facilitator can ask one of three questions:
  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What else can you find.
The facilitator should:
  • remain neutral, 
  • repeat the response to the observer in order to make sure they understood the comment, and 
  • point when necessary to where the observer is talking to get everyone focus on the same part of the piece.
The killer part is remaining neutral. Part of giving feedback, for me, is praise. Praise encourages, it creates a positive attitude in the class and it can help guide a class into the direction you want them to head. For VTS, the danger of getting them to go 'my way' outweighs the encouragement and positive environment praise fosters. The point is to get them to think for themselves, not for the facilitator. "What are 'they' thinking?" not "What do they think I want them to think?"

When I let them tell me what they thought about the painting, they floored me. I did this process in DC with about five teachers and an art history major as a facilitator. I think my kids blew us out of the water. They saw things and made connections I don't think we would have. Some of them would turn out to be wrong but they always returned back to the painting. Here are the responses. (Note that I haven't copied the title or artist information. It isn't shown to the observers until after they've responded lest it influence their comments.)

A sampling of comments:


Since the states are fighting for independence, I think it has to do with the Declaration of Independence.

I think it means that the drippings represent the pain that the US has gone through but we're all still here and its built America to what we are today.


I think the Indians are represented by their wars, words, names and homes. Their emotions could be represented by the dripping paint.

It is a depiction of our modern economy and which states play a more positive role in how the US is connected.


 The white symbolizes indifference, while blue is more bias and red is extremely biased.

The painter is sad and therefore the painting is sloppy.

It looks like a gunshot through Montana.

The United States is falling apart.

Most of the names by the water are no there so maybe that has something to do with it (the ocean) being black.

The Indians were angry at the people for taking their land ... maybe.

Smudged on purpose.

I think the bleeding of the colors represent something of pain. Bleedings are the key word for me.

Do you see what I mean? The link below is for the Smithsonian American Art Museum's page for this piece.  Below the image of the painting is a place to hear more about the painting. Click on it to hear what the artist herself has said about the piece and why she creates the art she does.Quite honestly, I like some of my kid's interpretations as well as the artist's comments.

The bottom line in the classroom is that in about the equivalent of 30-40 minutes, my students were schooled in Indian displacement in a way that causes them to continue to talk about the issue. We just finished talking about Jamestown and Plimoth and they asked about the indigenous tribes right off the bat. It was awesome. When we get to Manifest Destiny, State Names will play a large part as we wrestle with the shadow side of the Northwest Ordinance, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and the Homestead Act.

Finish up at the Smithosonian ...

Sorry for the long delay in posts. The start of school at work and home, ...'nough said.

The last couple of days at the Smithsonian we spent working on our presentations. They showed us how to record on Audacity and then on VoiceThread. Our assignment was to record a podcast based on the artwork we had selected. Here is the painting I selected oh so many months ago ...

Achelous and Hercules.1947. Thomas Hart Benton. Born: Neosho, Missouri 1889. Died: Kansas City, Missouri 1975. tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood. 62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program. 1985.2.

I have decided not place my podcast here for two reasons. One, the idea of someone hearing my recorded voice is distressing to me. The second (and real reason), is that I don't know how to get the audio to link onto the blog. But I have a better idea. Here are three podcasts by different students from across the country. I pulled them off the Smithsonian website, thank you Addie and Victoria for showing us these; they are awesome. The first one is by a sixth grader. It is tremendous and points to how creative a kid can get if you give them a chance.

Butte de Mort, Sioux Burial Ground, Upper Missouri. 1837-1839. George Catlin. Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796. Died: Jersey City, New Jersey. 1872. oil on canvas. 20 x 27 3/8 in. (50.9 x 69.4 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.475.

 The other two below are different takes of the same painting. One is by a second grade student, another by a senior. It shows that the idea of podcasting works for all age of student. Yes, my current students ... you will be podcasting this year!

Dust Bowl. 1933. Alexandre Hogue. Born: Memphis, Missouri. 1898 Died: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1994. oil on canvas. 24 x 32 5/8 in. (61 x 82.8 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of International Business Machines Corporation. 1969.123.

Cool, don't ya think?

On Friday of the conference, we gave our five minute presentation. Some incorporated their podcasts, some presented in PowerPoint, others in a program called a Prezi. Everyone's was really cool. In a week of in class lectures, in the exhibits gallery talks and hands on technology master classes, we all created something quite cool. Here is mine...

Dave McIntire's Manifest Destiny Prezi

Its weird to be finishing this a little more than a month after getting back home. Both the Presidential Academy and the Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute were game changing for me.

The Academy forced me think like a scholar again. Being the most educated guy in the classroom can cause you to get a little complacent. I always tell my students I don't ask them to do anything I'm not doing so the Academy allowed me to put my money where my mouth is. It also let me explore beyond my curriculum. I'm really excited to bring my newly minted Civil Rights module into the classroom in January.

The Smithsonian gave a whole new language and a whole new skill set to use on my kids. Using art as more than glorified clip art. Using art to introduce ideas and concepts as well as linking ideas together in a way that is engaging.

This should be the end of this blog but a few students, parents and friends have asked if I'm going to keep the blog going when I finish this entry. One of the program coordinators has asked if I would continue it and talk about how the integration of what I learned over the summer into the classroom is going. I'm game if you are so here is what I think I'm going to do from here on out.

I'm gonna post but I'm also going to ask my current student, parents and friends to weigh in by commenting. You'll have to join the blog to comment, including those of you read and comment on it via Facebook. I'll just want place to follow if that okay? I've used some of the Smithsonian activities in the classroom so far and I will post on how I think it went. Students, what are your thoughts? (I can only imaging my friends and colleagues are tired of my voice so I want yours). Parents and my friends (teacher type or not), you too! I know of a couple program administrator types who are lurking in the ether out there, you weigh in too!!!  If this becomes OUR blog, then I will keep it going. If not, then, ok.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day three of the Smithsonian institute ...

Yes, I know ... ten days later ...

I've been safely back in Kansas for almost a week and have spent the last several days getting back in the thick of it.  Love being home and seeing my wife and two of the kiddos. Talked to one of the older boys and getting in touch with the other two is on my list for tonight. Am glad to be back at school. I'm chasing the wind trying to get everything ready but ... its all good.

The third day of the Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute was part art and part technology. During the morning we padded out into the gallery to try a couple more exercises. The one I liked the best asked you to look at a piece, in our case they were photos by artist Lee Friedlander, and write a postcard length description of what you saw. Mine was a marker showing the western-most part of the US in 1793. In my 'postcard' I mentioned that the marker was evidence our our 'wanderlust' as Americans.

This would be a great short writing exercise. Don't think of it as 'edumacation'. Just write a note to a friend.

Am going to try this with my students. I think I'll start with these photos. The bottom one is from the Sedgwick County Historical Museum. The top one I've used for a year or so but don't know its story.

AJ Pullian (photographer), Hamilton Intermediate School, ca. 1925. Sedgwick County Historical Museum.

The afternoon and much of the time remaining at the Smithsonian was dedicated to working with technology. The interesting thing about the way they introduced it was that nothing we used was 'cutting edge'. The idea seemed to be to use current technology well. They introduced us to Audacity, Voicestream and Prezi. Audacity and Voicestream are audio capture programs and were used to record a podcast we'd been asked to create for out piece of art. Prezi is a presentation format. Think of PowerPoint except non-linear. The goal was to create a podcast and then a five minute presentation incorporating the technology and out pieces of art. I didn't see our podcast online but like this one so I'll show it as an example.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Reading Art"

Day Two of the Institute highlights...

Melanie Layne worked with us today on how to 'read art' and how to help students make sense of art when we use it in the classroom. Some of my notes:

Most art can be placed in a continuum from representational to non-representational.



Abstract--abstract fits in between representational and non-representational on the continuum. Sometimes the 'representative' idea (in this Sheeler you can seen the buildings amid the geometry) can be easily seen but sometimes what looks non-representational has some sense of representation when you know more about the artist, the subject, the process.

Ms. Layne then walked us through a way of analyzing art with students. She broke the process down in seven steps and asked us to look at the art from level one; 'objects, lines and shapes' to level five 'location'. The first five are really identifying what you see--the decoding of the piece from general to more specific. The last two involve the interpreting of the art and then bringing all the separate levels into one cohesive connection.

Then we were taken into the gallery and asked to read 8 or 9 pieces in a 30 minute period. All of the pieces were from the 30s or related to the 30s. As a team, we tried the process. I wasn't shocked that it worked but how quickly we moved from art novices to eagle eyed interpreters of the peices. Once done, they asked us to reflect on the pieces and then write a six word story based on the collection. I'll give you a sample of one of the peices and my story. It will lose something in translation but ...

(BTW-the six word story is a cool tool to use with students. How do you get your point across in only six words? The most famous six word story is by Hemmingway: "For Sale. Babies Shoes. Never Worn.")

Diamonds are refined through intense pressures.

We then fused all of the six word stories into a poem or sorts. The cool thing about the process was that what I struggled to express in these images or missed completely, someone else got. It was powerful and I can see it translating back into my classroom.  I could also see this process working with historic documents as well. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

"What's going on in the picture?"

This afternoon we played with Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). It is a series of three questions designed to help with observation and articulation of thoughts about a painting, sculture, document, ... VTS is designed to be a starting off point for discussin visual mediums. It is a great way to wrestle with primary sources so I was intrigued. It centers around three questions:
  1. What is going on in the picture?
  2. What do you see to say that?
  3. What more can we find?
Those are the only questions a facilitator may ask. They are encouraged to listen carefully in order to paraphrase each speaker's thought to make sure everyone is looking at the same in the part of the picture; remain neutral to any response and link comments which relate.We were then taken into the gallery and practiced the process on four different pieces. It is alot harder than it sounds. If it is an image you are really familiar with-you have to facilitate without giving away too much. If you aren't familiar with the piece-there is a whole different challenges. The goal is a directed dialogue focused on the piece of art. don't worry about who painted it, or when or even the title. Those aren't important - as a matter of fact, they may get in the way of the exploration.

Let's try it, okay? Look at the image belows and ask yourself the three questions. Remember, you have to prove your point with something specific to the image. Figure out why you have that gut feeling. Be specific. Think in terms of narrative and story? Think in terms of perceptions, prior knowledge even personal biases. Just be ready to name it a perception or bias.

Is there really no such thing as a bad question?

This is the 22 foot mural in its entirety.

Note: I wrote this on Monday but decided not to post it until today (Saturday). This conference was a challenge for me in that it travelled roads I don't know I've gone down as a teacher. I've spent the better part of the week processing what I've seen and how it can be translated into the classroom. Unlike the Presidential Academy, there was only a little prep for the Insitute. We selected a painting to research and did a short reading. It has been an intense week and I will do my best to highlight what we did. I'm still processing though so if my thought seem more incoherent thatn normal ...

Day one of the Smithosonian Institution's Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute. I have to admit, I was worried about burn out. The Presidential Academy was intense. So much preparation and a packed schedule. To sit for an hour and listen to art historian and tech people might be problematic. I shouldn't have worried. I walked out of the American Art Museum with more energy and excitment that I thought I had in reserve.

The big idea behind this conference is an exploration of how teachers can integrate art and technology in 'traditional' classroom. We were asked to select a piece to focus on and I chose a Thomas Hart Benton piece called Achelous and Hercules. Its the piece at the top of this entry.

The keynote today was by Ron Richhardt from Harvard University. His research looks at effective communication strategies in the classroom. His suggested that there were five types of questions in a class:
  • review: content, terminology, process...
  • procedural: classroom management; directing the work of the class; not content-based information 
  • generative: exploration of the topic or 'wondering out loud' questions;
  • constructive: questions which help build understanding and
  • facilitating: questions which promote the learner's own thinking and understanding.
One of the things his research documents is something that most teachers know but seems counterintuitive to many folks. There more you focus on review and procedure (think; teaching to the test) the lower the assessment scores are. When students are engaged through generative, constructive and facilitating questions, the higher the test scores. The more a student is challenged and encouraged to look past the 'quick and easy' answer to real understanding, the better they do on content-driven assessment.

Dr. Richhardt also outlined what he thought were four key qualities for classroom instruction:
  • Novel application-it has to be more than just 'practicing what they know'.
  • Meaningful inquiry-they need to wrestle with new understandings and insights
  • Effective communication-lock in  understanding by talking, sharing, debating, ...
  • Intrinsic value-a sense of accomplishment or appreciation
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what these might mean for my classroom, but wanted to get them out there. One of the values of being on-site is that I have the luxury of time to think about what is the best way to teach my charges.  I miss my family like mad but I hope I'm using my time to wrestle with what I can do better as a teacher. My students deserve no less.

Nerding it up between conferences ...

The Presidential Academy ended on Thursday. That morning, I watched my collegues for the previous three weeks head back to Philly and I went to the hotel I would be staying at for the rest of my time in DC. Its weird, after 20 or so days of being on a strict schedule and seeing the same people day in and day out, freedom was kinda awkward. It took me at a day to shake it. In case I haven't said it, these women and men were phenomenal. I really admire them. Some of them work in amazingly challenging situations, whether it be inner city or at risk populations or with children of affluence and apathy, they inspired me. The perspective of teaching civil rights in the Deep South. The perpective of being the only person your race in a school of 2000. The perspective of surviving your first year teaching or your 35th. We got to be friends and I wish them all the best. Thanks for letting me tag along and listen in.

On Friday I earned my history nerd union card. I went to the Madison Library of  Building and got my Library of Congress 'reader card'. I am now authorized to research in the Library of Congress for the next two years. How cool is that! I went in twice, once to look for a novella by Ralph Ellison that Dr. Morel suggested and the other to look for information on James Madison's stepson, Payne Todd. Am going to try and get over there at least one more time this week.

The place you get the reader card is in the Madison Building. You didn't think I would get a picture of Jemmy in his LOC building?

Library of Congress Reader Card. Yes I know I'm not smiling. I was going for nonplussed but it went more toward mugshot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

70 hours in the classroom ... 9 site, battlefield and building tours ... 3,300 pages of reading ...

This is the last day of the Presidential Academy and everyone is both exhausted and aware that our time together is winding down. As I sit and write, groups are planning their last hours of free time in DC. Some are off to the Holocaust Museum. Some going back over to House of Representatives, hoping to get in the gallery and hoping to see debate or a vote on the debt ceiling. Our last session was last night and we'll meet tonight for evaluations and a final pedagogy discussion.

Maggie asked me last night on the phone if the Academy will help in the classroom and I started spewing incoherently all the things I can incorporate, will continue to research and plan on showing my kids. The professional development sheet they gave us indicates that we have spent more than 70 hours in classes and read almost 3,400 pages of literature to prepare for those classes. What it doesn't show is time spent with talented and passionate colleagues. We've collaborated, conspired and debated. The discussions and experiences were all that much better because of them. Travel with a group of people for three weeks and you get close. Its bittersweet to think that by this time tomorrow, most will be in Philly or in the air, on their way back to their homes.

All in all, good times.

There are three Library of Congress buildings in Washington DC. The Jefferson is the one that is beautiful and impressive. The Madison is next door and where we started our tour. (The other honors Adams.) This huge medallion was over one of the research halls and I couldn't resist. The only memorial to Madison is this building. Somehow, I  think Madison would be okay with his memorial being a library.

A morning in the House ...

Another early morning. We were at the Capitol this morning by 7 a.m. for a visit to the House of Representatives. We were ushered into the chamber and the first thing you notice is how much bigger, and then, smaller it seems. Bigger, much bigger than the Senate. Its has five times the number of members so that is understandable. Smaller in that when you see it on TV for the State of the Union, it looks so much bigger.
The freshman congressman from Northern Mississippi, Rep. Alan Nunnelee, spoke for almost an hour about serving in the house. Sen. Alexander and Rep. Nunnelee were interesting bookends.Yesterday we met with Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the longest serving Republican in the Senate, today a first term Congressman. To distinct perspectives. He talked about service, time management and balancing both governing and running for election. He then opened it up to us and we spent about 20 minutes asking him questions. His aide reminded him a few minutes before 9 a.m. that he had another meeting. The meeting was with House Republicans to set talking points for the debt ceiling discussions that day. Another reminder that this is not a normal week for them, or us.

The photo of the House of Representative comes from MSNBC.

We spent the rest of the morning touring the Library of Congress. The Capitol is beautiful and impressive and was designed to be both an office building and political hall. The Library of Congress is both beautiful and impressive as well, but its day job is as a working library and research facility. I've been to the LOC before but I had forgotten how beautiful it is. There is an exhibit of Thomas Jefferson's library, which he donated after a fire in the early 1800s. 6,500 books. To see them all together is really cool. The pictures below are mine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A day in the Senate ...

We were up at dawn this morning and trekked to the US Capitol for the first half of our time with Congress. We were honored by being invited to sit in the 'well' of the Senate. The only way you can enter is as a guest of a senator. We were the guest of Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. I sat in the chair occupied by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingham. (Thank you Sen. Bingham for the loan of your seat) Sen. Alexander, who wrote the legislation which founded the Presidential Academy six years ago, spoke to us from the floor of the Senate for about 15 minutes. You can't but help to reflect on what it might be like to be sit at those desks and make those decisions. Last night, President Obama and Speaker Boehner held separate press conferences regarding competing outlooks and the debt ceiling debate.Yesterday, they were making me really really frustrated with their intractability, but today, I decided I had to cut them a little slack. These and women and men who serve, by in large, are earnestly and honestly trying to serve the country in a difficult and corrosive time. We've been talking in the sessions about looking at history from a high road or low road. Those moments in the well of the Senate reminding me of what a wonderful and messy thing this American experiment is.
The pictures you see below are not mine. You are not allowed to bring cameras onto the Senate floor and so I left my camera at home. The rest of the Capitol is photo friendly but I pulled these from the Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol and National Archives websites.
Tomorrow is the morning at the House of Representatives and Library of Congress.

This is a shot from the Senate gallery. we were in the 'well' of the senate. Sen. Bingham sits almost dead center, three rows back-you can see only part of the desk in this picture.

This is a typical Senate desk. To temper your curiosity, they remind you not to open the desk. That would be considered disrespectful to that Senator's privacy. It is temping, though.

Senators will scratch their names in the bottom of their desks. As 'honored guests' of Sen. Alexander, it would been rude to lay on your back and see who sat where you sat. I can't say I wasn't curious though.

This is the mural on the ceiling of the U.S. Capitol. No image I found does it justice.

This is part of the detail of the ceiling. The mural is titled The Apotheosis of George Washington. GW is in the lower center portion of this detail. Apotheosis means exultation and exultation of a person to the rank of god. He sits between goddesses Victoria and Liberty with 13 maidens. The 13 maidens represent ... yeah, the first batch of states.

Each state has been invited to contribute two statues to the Capitol building. President Eisenhower sits in the Rotunda.

The other statues sits in the Hall of Statues in the old house of Representatives Chamber. John James Ingalls was a Kansas Senator for 18 years and was so well respected that he was named President pro tempore of the Senate in 1887. There is a move to replace Sen. Ingalls with a statue of Amelia Earhart.