Sunday, May 1, 2011

Senate Page Memories

I had to write a folklore research paper for English, so I decided to write interview some of the other pages and write about my experience as a Senate Page.  People ask me about it quite a bit so this is a more detailed explanation than I normally give.  I hope you enjoy it.

Each year high school juniors across the country apply through their senators’ offices to become a Page in the United States Senate.  According to Mildred Amer, a specialist in American Government from the Congressional Research Service, Pages have been serving in the Senate for over 150 years.  Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate Page in 1829.  His connection with the beginning of the Page program has led to the naming of the Senate Page dormitory, Webster Hall, in his honor.  Senate Pages mainly act as messengers.  They carry documents throughout the capital.  Additionally, they prepare the Senate chambers each day, prepare the Senators’ desks, assist in the chambers and cloakroom, and during sessions sit on the rostrum where they may be summoned for assistance by the senators (1).  Pages are considered to be non-partisan employees of the Senate, but they work for the party of the Senator that appointed them.  Many former pages have become some of the most prominent figures in our country.  According to journalist Michelle Davis, despite calls to close the page program due to recent scandals including members of the House of Representatives and House Pages, the program is being protected by the many prominent business and political leaders that served as pages (23).
Serving as a United States Senate Page is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  It is an experience that can truly change lives.  Serving as a Page allows an up close look at how our government works.  The Page program teaches discipline, respect, time management, honor, and professionalism.  Beyond the official duties and experiences lies the folklore that is created by each class of pages.  Folklore consists of our unique experiences we shared as a group. Bill Ivey of Vanderbilt University points out that folklore is even important to policy makers like the Senators we served:

The key elements that define [folklore]-sound theory grounded in the distinctive expressive practices of diverse communities, an antimodern and persistently relevant moral stance, and a wealth of actionable knowledge-make folklore especially valuable to policy leaders who every day must engage challenges defined by culture, religion, ethnicity, ceremony, and traditional practice in science, medicine, welfare, labor, diplomacy, and trade. (6)

Pages spend every hour of every day together.  When not working together, Pages live together, hang out together, and take field trips together on the weekends.  Each class of Pages is unique and therefore has a unique experience serving as Senate Pages.  I was a part of the summer 2009 class.  My class is made up of a diverse group of people from across the country.  We all came from different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds.  Despite our differences we came together and bonded as friends.  The Summer 2009 Senate Page class is connected through our experience of working together, our experience of living together, and our special experiences that defined our group.

Working in the Senate
Working on the Senate floor is demanding and tedious work that leads to pages looking for ways to lighten the atmosphere.  There are a lot of rules and procedures we have to follow as Pages.  Everything we did had to be done a certain way, and if something wasn’t done exactly right there were serious consequences.  Those rules became monotonous and some of the Pages looked for fun in breaking the rules.  Lauren Cook of Louisiana said, “my memories are of us bonding together by trying to escape all the rules and obnoxious standards we had to meet.”  While sitting on the rostrum you had to sit still and be attentive because you were being watched by the Senators and a national television audience.  Lauren and her cousin Connor were sitting next to each other on the rostrum during work one day.  To break up the monotony she decided to punch him repeatedly during one of Senator Menendez’s speeches.  They were caught by a Page supervisor, and as a punishment, both of them were required to memorize and recite every Senator that had served from Delaware.  Will Stemberg of Massachusetts remembers, “one afternoon, in the midst of a quorum call, almost the entire Page class decided to sneak into the private senators’ bathroom.”  A custodian caught the group of pages and reported them to the cloakroom staff.  Although they were yelled at by many different people, Will is still proud to say he has urinated in the same place as many of America’s greatest leaders.  One of the legends of the Senate is that of the Senate baths.  It is rumored that hidden somewhere in the capitol are bathtubs that the early Senators would use during a long day on the Senate floor.  The Pages were told that they didn’t exist, but Jake Hinch of Oklahoma and I remember when we finally convinced our supervisor to tell us the truth.  Our supervisor, Evelyn Poole agreed to take us to the baths that she discovered while she was a page.  During a break we snuck to the basement and into a maintenance room.  Finally, we wound our way to real life marble bathtubs in the capitol.  We were lucky we didn’t get caught.  Pages are teenagers that are given very adult responsibilities.  They are expected to act like adults, but after all they are still teenagers.  It is hard to expect seventeen-year-olds to act like complete adults.  Finding mischief in the capitol was our way of acting like teenagers and having some fun.
            Working on the Senate floor was an amazing yet challenging opportunity.  Ericka Gianotto of Idaho sums it up best when she says, “the greatest part of being a Page was having a literal front row seat on the Senate floor.”  Ericka like all pages remembers the Senators test.  Each Page has to memorize the names and faces of each Senator in their party.  It is definitely a challenge to learn, in the case of the Republican Pages at the time, forty names and face within the first couple days of being there.  She also remembers the first time she took water to one of the Secretaries of the Senate.  It didn’t occur to her to put the water in a glass.  When she took the bottle of water to the Secretary, the Secretary looked up and said, “that’s nice, now why don’t you go put it in a cup?”  Morgan Disanto-Ranney of Virginia remembers Senator Bond scribbling down a few notes at his desk.  He then got up and gave an entire memorized speech.  Morgan collected his notes afterword and found that he had written and memorized his entire speech in only a few minutes before he talked.  One day while I was on the Senate floor, Senator Grassley of Iowa gave a speech about Sur Taxalot and the Debt and Deficit Dragon.  This speech has since become the target of many political comedians and the subject of a viral Auto-Tune the News video.  It is fun to see this clip played because I was sitting right in front of him when he gave this speech.  At the end of our tenure as Pages, like those who came before us, we signed our names in the Pages’ cupboards next to the rostrum.  One of the worst pars of the job as Morgan Disanto-Ranney recalls was the Page Annex.  During the summer are more Pages in the Senate.  We would work in shifts.  While not working, we would spend hours locked in a tiny windowless room in the basement of the capitol.  To pass the time, Pages would read, play games, or sleep.  Ericka Gianotto remembers how excited she was to finally get to sign the cupboard on the last day of work.  Getting to see the Senate so intimately was better than any government class available.  Pages learn from experiencing firsthand the processes of our government and are expected to know the rules and procedures of the Senate.  I learned more about government in those six weeks than I have the rest of my life.  Having such a unique experience instills in the pages just how important the work of the government is.

Living in Webster Hall
Daniel Webster Hall has served as the Senate Page residence since 1993 and within its walls complete strangers from around the country live together while serving as Senate Pages.  Webster Hall therefore, is the location where Page memories and Page bonding take place.  Right before we all arrived in Washington D.C. there was a major H1N1 outbreak across the country.  One of the pages, Daniel Harelson, was infected when he moved into Webster Hall.  He thought he was over the infection when he moved in, but it turns out he wasn’t.  He was never treated for the infection while there, but he infected other pages causing an epidemic in Webster Hall.  Gabriel Lavine of Kentucky remembers that Emily Chen, Elise Mixon, and Ericka Gianotto, and himself were quarantined in Webster Hall for a week.  They were locked in their rooms, given masks, and had to order all of their meals in.  Our dorm proctors were scared to death that they would be infected also.  Ericka Gianotto recalls that an email was sent to everyone in the capitol.  The story was leaked to the press and a Fox News cameraman waited outside all day just to get a shot of the infected Pages.  There is not a cafeteria or any food facilities in Webster Hall.  That means the Pages have to go out to dinner every night after work.  Without a car, the Pages can either stay close by Webster Hall and eat at Union Station or take the Metro to Chinatown.  Lauren Cook’s favorite place was a little restaurant close by called Good Stuff.  Lauren said, “they have the best burgers I have ever eaten.”  When pages found somewhere good to eat it was an exciting experience with so little close to Webster Hall.  Webster Hall is close to the Capitol complex.  Each day we would walk to the Hart Senate Office Building and take the underground subway to the Capitol.  I remember that as pages we felt privileged, especially in comparison to the Summer interns.  Pages not only have access to the Senate floor, a privilege few employees have, but they also ride the Capitol subway and are paid.  Summer interns don’t receive any of those benefits.  Placing thirty complete strangers together in a house with four to a room definitely has its challenges, but spending every waking moment together forced us to get along.  There were definitely some struggles and shared diseases.  Even though we all came from different places and backgrounds, we found common ground and became friends or at least tolerated one another. 
            Webster Hall has many restrictions on pages because of past problems.  Living in Webster Hall is kind of like paying to live in prison.  While serving, Pages can’t have their cell phone, can’t have access to the internet, and can’t leave Webster Hall without getting permission.  Pages must be back by 9:00 PM, the boys and girls must be on separate floors by 11:00 PM, and lights must be out by midnight.  My roommate Jack Schlossberg of New York tells that he snuck his cell phone into Webster Hall and hid it during the day.  I soon after snuck my cell phone in also.  Jack was glad to have his cell phone because without it communication was very limited.  He never did anything bad with it, but felt rebellious anyway.  Living with such strict standards helps the Pages focus on learning as much as possible.  While serving as a Page there is so much to concentrate on and learn, and without distractions it is much easier to work at full capacity.

Defining Experiences 
        Each Page comes away with different experiences or overall feelings about serving as a Page.  Ericka Gianotto recalls how neat it is to be surrounded by such influential and powerful people like the Senators, but also fellow Pages that come from influential families.  There were quite a few in our Page class that come from very well known families in America.  Jack Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg is the only grandson of JFK.  Eddy Marshall is the grandson of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice.  Jenna Cantor and Maggie Harper are the daughters of Representatives.  Connor Snellings is the son of and Lauren Cook is the niece of Senator Landrieu of Louisiana.  Rose Traubert is from the Hyatt Hotel family.  For most of the pages it was a new experience being surrounded by so many famous people.  Will Stemberg will always remember the craziness of fellow page Zane Sawyer.  Will’s favorite Zane saying is, “I wouldn’t throw rocks at her.”  Will said, “I would make sure to sit close to him at lunch because laughter was virtually guaranteed in his presence.”  Each of us has our own perceptions and even though each of us had the same experience, we each have our own unique perception of our service.  By hearing what others have to say about a shared experience, each person can better appreciate what actually occurred.
While serving as Pages some very important events took place that we witnessed firsthand.  We watched the Judicial hearings on the approval of Judge Sotomayor, A universal healthcare option was argued, and comedian Al Franken was sworn in as a Senator.  Having the opportunity to see these monumental events up close will connect us on a personal level with some major events in the history of our nation.

            Through the shared experience of working as a page, our Page class came together, bonded, and will be connected because of this experience.   Each Page has a different perspective on our shared experience.  Lauren Cook said, “being a page opened my eyes to how big the world is.  I’m from a tiny town in Louisiana, and I was blown away by the amount of power the United States has, but more importantly how influential just one person can be.  It’s important for every citizen to know that they actually can make a difference.”  Morgan Disanto-Ranney was impressed with the fact that we came “from all across the country with different backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions, yet we all came together to form a strong community.  We learned from each other and formed friendships that we will all never forget.”  Ericka Gianotto pointed out that we worked and lived with the same thirty people for six weeks.  “We had to work together and form friendships, otherwise we wouldn’t have lasted,” Ericka stated.  She hasn’t talked to many of her fellow pages over the last two years, but she would still welcome them into her home if they ever visit Idaho.  Being a page is an experience that is hard to explain unless you have been a page.  It gives young people a unique opportunity to live and work in our nation’s Capitol.  On top of that Pages learn about other cultures within our country from each other.
The experience of being a page teaches lessons and gives life experiences that can’t be matched.  We not only learned from working in the Senate, but also from each other.  Each of us came from different places and backgrounds, but we find the Summer 2009 Senate Page class is connected through our experience of working together, our experience of living together, and our special experiences that defined our group. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Extremes of Entertainment

Like pretty much every other American, the last couple of weeks I haven't been able to stop listening to Friday by Rebecca Black.  Now this song is great on so many levels.  It has such a catchy tune, shallow lyrics, and Rebecca Black's wonderfully awful voice.  I cannot get it out of my head and today was once again that magical day.  I've been listening to it all day long.  While this song is so entertaining, I really feel bad for Rebecca.  She is so young and everyone in America is making fun of her. I hope she internalize it.  What has America come to though, we praise and seek for those things that aren't good quality.  We like the awful more than we like the truly impressive performances.  What has YouTube done to us?

On the other hand, tonight I watched Tangled.  I'm usually not a big fan of animated movies, but this is an exception.  Disney has finally returned to its roots.  It is a classic Disney princess film that embodies the good in life. It has everything that a good Disney movie should, a revamped fairytale as a storyline, great new songs, relatable characters, and of course some magic.  I would definitely recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.  It took me back to my childhood and follows the pattern of those classic Disney movies.

In today's world we have constant access to new entertainment via YouTube, Facebook, Hulu, iTunes, and whatever else fills your needs.  Much of this instant entertainment celebrates the negative and the bad.  This media definitely serves its purpose and makes us laugh, but sometimes I feel like negative content brings me down.  The solution is to take it in moderation.  Along with the funny videos, songs, or a genius combination of the two like the masterpiece we know as Friday, look for good content too.  Go beyond what you're used to.  There is a lot of it today, and more and more I appreciate all of the old stuff.  Old movies, 60's music, old books, classical music, take your pick.  There is a lot of good out there to be discovered.  There is too much good out there to focus all of our time on the negative.

Happy Friday Everyone! for a couple more minutes. I thought I'd put this on here for fun.

This is my favorite cover of it so far.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


When you were little, what did you want to be?  I know this has probably changed quite a few times over the years, but I'm sure you still have an ultimate goal.  Are you on the right path to achieve your goals.  The only person that can put you on that path and keep you there is yourself.  Your choices shaped who you were, are shaping who you are, and shaping who you become.

A while ago I was playing a game with some of my friends where you pick a question out of a pile and have to answer it kind of like truth or dare.  To be honest the kind of questions it was asking are the kind that really bother me.  What is your deepest fear?  What is your most embarrassing moment?  For me these things are a little too personal and if I really wanted anyone to know I would tell them, but I'm not just going to offer them up to the world.  I hide some things on purpose.  But the one that really bothered me was, What would you change about yourself?  Now, I'm not perfect and everyday I try to make myself at least a little better, but that question is so pointless it's not worth asking.  We have for the most part chosen who we are.  Each of us is based on choices we have made in social, educational, and family situations growing up.  I realize there are things that can't be controlled, but instead of dwelling on those negative aspects of your life, capitalize on them.  Let your weaknesses strengthen you and make you a better person.  Instead of wishing something would magically change about you, take action.  Make new choices today to get you closer to where you want to be.

When it comes right down to it, we are who we are because of the decisions we make.  The environment you grew up in had a big impact on shaping who you are, but it's the choices you have made that have brought have set your path.  Each person makes decisions based on what they view is the correct path to take in life.  Each of us has chosen to behave a certain way because we see it as the most acceptable.  People every day accept themselves to be only capable of a fraction of their potential.  When you set a goal, you have the power to achieve it if you put all of your effort towards it.  You can be the best, the smartest, the most successful if you just try.

As I have quoted Marianne Williamson before, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us."  Lately I have been talking to my friends Alexis and Brielle.  I just want to tell them to go for it.  Set your sights high and you will make it beyond what you imagined.  Make the choices today that will shape you into what you want to become.  It is all up to you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Waiting For the End To Come

A couple of days ago I found this great new song Called, "Waiting For the End to Come" by Linkin Park.  It really hit me immediately and pretty much explains how I feel right now.  The whole song is great, but these words especially hit me.
Waiting for the end to come 
Wishing I had strenght to stand 
This is not what I had planned 
It’s out of my control
Sitting in an empty room 
Trying to forget the past 
This was never meant to last 
I wish it wasn’t so
I know what it takes to move on 
I know how it feels to lie 
All I wanna do is trade this life for something new 
Holding on to what I haven’t got

Right now I just really need a new start.  I am headed in a better direction.  I am at a crossroads, trying to pick the better path.  Some things you just don't have any control over.  You can't control other people, but you can control your response.  We don't plan on being challenged, but that is part of life.  We are tested to make us better.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  I am responsible for what I do.  When you're in a tough spot, I know how it feels to wait for the end to come.  You can't wait for the day when that weight will finally be gone.  The struggle is what comes next.  What happens when you finally decide to make a correction in your path?  It can be lonely and confusing.  Sometimes you feel alone, but you really aren't.  Old habits can be hard to break.  When they're gone, you really see what's left in your life.  What's left are usually the most important things like family and friends.  Sometimes you just have to hold onto something you haven't got.  It's something you don't have right now, but is a goal.  Hold on to your ambitions.  Sometimes that's the only thing that can keep you moving forward.  The most important thing is to move forward.  Move on and don't look back.  Remember the mistakes well enough to not repeat them, but don't dwell on it.  It's gone.  I'm stronger.  Focus on being better every day.  Focus on the positive and don't ever go back to the bad that you have overcome.

Listen to the whole song it's really good.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Everyone Can Love on Valentine's No Girlfriend/Boyfriend Required

Lately, all I've been hearing from the TV and the people around me is, "I hate Valentine's Day" or "Singles Awareness Day is coming up."  There was even a survey I saw that said they associate Valentine's Day with loneliness and depression.  Come on, why is everyone turning this day of love into a day of comparing yourself to others and self-pity.

I have actually always loved Valentine's Day.  When I was little I would take all of my Valentine cards to school and put one in each person's box.  That night was always my favorite.  I would "kick" Valentines on all of my friends doorsteps.  Then my grandparents and my parents would always ring our doorbell and leave each of us a treat.  I looked forward to telling my family and friends how much I love them and of course getting Valentines.

Valentine's Day is about love, and not just the love between couples.  It's about love in general.  There are a lot more people out there that you love and that love you.  I know it can be hard to be single.  It's hard to not have that significant other on Valentine's Day.  I don't, but I'm ok with it.  Right now i don't need another person to complete me.  I'm still learning plenty about myself.  

This isn't singles awareness day.  This isn't a holiday created by the greeting card companies to make an extra buck (It goes way farther back than that).  This is Valentine's Day, and this year I want to take it back to my childhood days, and I encourage you to do the same.  Celebrate love.  Take time to show your love for all of the people you care for.  This year I'm going to have fun on Valentine's Day.  I"m going to "kick" Valentines just like I used to.  Don't stay alone at home.  Make the most of it and remind your friends and family just how much you love them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Am Not A Nobody

Tonight at Institute a kid got up and said, "I am a nobody, nobody here knows my name, I just go to Snow College."  He kept going on and on about how insignificant he was and I felt bad for him.  I don't know if that was his intent, but I did.  I thought about this for a while and reflected on my feelings on the issue.  I honestly have never had that exact feeling that I am a nobody, and no one else should feel that way either.  I definitely have my self doubts, but I have always felt like I can make a difference.  I may not know my full purpose on earth and may never completely know it, but it doesn't mean that I don't have a purpose.  Everyone has a purpose.  Everyone is here for a reason and we all have something unique and special to offer.  

When we think small and tell ourselves that we are nobodies we are limiting our potential.  This takes me back to my favorite quote by Marianne Williamson.  

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

It is only when we tell ourselves that we can't that things become impossible.  We can only achieve as much as we set our mind to.  When we dream big, understand that we can make a difference, and push ourselves to achieve our goals and the ones the Lord has set for us; we realize that we are a somebody. Each of us is unique.  Each of us has an impact on our world and those around us.  You are somebody.  You are special and don't let anyone else tell you any differently.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Closure On A Memory: The Holiday Inn

This last weekend I went with my choir to sing in St. George for the UMEA Convention.  Stuck in St. George with no car or any transportation whatsoever, we had to make our own fun.  We all thought we were stuck on the edge of town, but when we started walking on Friday night, I found out I was right in the middle of where my family would spend a lot of time in St. George.  We used to go quite often, but haven't as much the last few years.  In the middle of this area was the Holiday Inn.  My dad's friend was the manager at the Holiday Inn and that's where we would stay every time we would go to St. George.  We would stay their every Easter, every time my sisters had a softball tournament, when we would go to Tuacahn while my sister was teaching there, and innumerable other times.  

I have so many memories staying that hotel.  Every Easter the hotel would have an Easter egg hunt for the kids staying there.  Two years in a row, with the help of my older sisters, I found the winning egg and won the grand prize of a giant stuffed rabbit.  The tennis court at the Holiday Inn is where I first learned to play and love tennis.  At the hotel they have an indoor/outdoor pool.  You can swim under these flaps and suddenly be swimming outside.  My sisters and I would spend hours at the pool.  My best friend from elementary school moved to St. George, soon after he moved I went to visit him and the Holiday Inn is where I last got to spend time with him.  I have always seen it as an escape, a place where I could spend time with my family and have a lot of fun.  My dad would always say that our idea of camping was to go to the Holiday Inn in St. George and really it was.  Other families may have gone camping to bond and have fun together, but my family's trips did the same and more for us.  

About seven years ago my dad's friend passed away.  We no longer had a connection at the Holiday Inn and it reminded my dad so much of his friend.  We went less and less all the time up to the point where we completely stopped staying there.  I haven't stayed there in a few years, but I knew it was still there.  I could always go back if I wanted to.  This time walking down St. George's Bluff Street, something was different.  The Holiday Inn sign was missing from the skyline.  A blank space was there in its stead.  I thought to myself, "maybe their sign broke," but as I got closer their marquee said, "Welcome to the Lexington Hotel."  I wondered, "what is the Lexington Hotel?  That's the Holiday Inn."  It had changed.  After being a St. George landmark on Bluff Street for many years it was gone.  Some other hotel chain had moved in.  I couldn't help but to walk in and see it one more time.  The furniture and feel of the lobby was different.  The gift shop where was gone.  The arcade where I would go spend my change was gone.  The air hockey table in the loft where was gone.  The tennis court was gone, replaced by an over-sized tacky event tent.  What had Happened

Whether I liked it or not, I now had closure on all of those memories from my youth, but I realize that nobody could ever take those memories from me.  The venue that I associated many happy things with was gone, but my memories weren't.  Life always moves forward whether you like it or not.  Things change constantly.  I am so happy I have those memories, but it's time to make new ones.  I can find a new place to escape with my family, new and old friends, and future family members.  I can start a new tradition, move on, and enjoy the newness and change life always brings.  Nothing is permanent, but our families.  I am so thankful that I have so many family members surrounding me all of the time.  I hope I never lose any of them.

The New Lexington Hotel (that signs not there yet they have just photoshopped their sign on the Holiday Inn picture)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bring On the Rain

Welcome to my blog.  Life can be really tough, but the way to survive is to take what we get and make the most out of every situation.  Sure we may have challenges, but so does everyone else.  What we face may not be the same or as difficult as someone else's, but everyone has to face the challenges they have.  Instead of hiding from the difficult things in life, see adversity as an opportunity.  It is a chance for growth, a chance to face our fears.  Find the positives in your situation, adapt, and push forward.

Remember and tell yourself, "Tomorrow's another day and I'm thirsty anyway so bring on the rain."