Tuesday afternoon, our Education Policy Fellows spent time on Capitol Hill. We had interaction with Janice Poda, former Deputy Superintendent at the South Carolina Department of Education and now with the Council of Chief State School Officers and with staff members from Representative Trey Gowdy's, Representative Jim Clyburn's and Senator Lindsey Graham's offices. They listened and took notes; we felt like we had been heard. There was some particularly pointed conversation in Senator Graham's office when it was expressed that we did not feel enough intervention and pressure was applied when our state leaders refused to accept federal dollars for education that then went to other states. Yes, there are concerns about the national debt, but the money had already been allocated and would have helped us tremendously. Unfortunately, ideology triumphed reason in that decision.
We were able to join the public in the senate gallery and watch federal lawmakers at work. When we arrived, they were just finishing debate on the post office's future and voting on some of the proposals. While the voting was taking place, we could see democrat and republican senators speaking to one another informally in the aisles, smiling, shaking hands, and treating one another with respect. It was interesting to see such well-known personalities as John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, John McCain, Joe Lieberman and the newest senator from my native West Virginia, Joe Manchin, whose family I know and respect, interacting on a human level. It was a positive experience.
When I told my 85-year-old father last week that I was going to Washington, he told me to tell the lawmakers to "save the post office" because, as a retiree, he was concerned about his pension continuing to be there. What a thrill it was to talk to Daddy on the phone last evening and tell him I was able to speak to Senator Graham about what he said. Since they appropriated $10 billion to the postal service, Daddy will probably take satisfaction that his request carried weight.
Yes, we have problems in Washington and Columbia, but the experience of being with educators from around the country and seeing again how our Republic functions in our nation's capitol was edifying. We still live in the greatest country on earth, and I am convinced teachers play a huge role in how well we will navigate the 21st century.