US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

Congress…how exasperating! And infuriating…but that’s the government we’ve chosen so we must live with it and eventually vote out those we don’t want. Democracy isn’t all sweetness and perfection, but somehow it keeps working, one way or another. I had my first experience of actually seeing them in action back in 1959. My visit is something to remember, especially now.

When my family left Tripoli, Libya, my Army Corps of Engineers father  had orders for the Pentagon. He went on to work for the powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff, an honor for his career and a promotion to full Colonel. We lived in a small but homey stone house in Alexandria, Virginia, and I attended the last two years of high school at Francis C. Hammond, now a middle school.

My classmate, Barbara, and I enjoyed exploring the museums and other highlights in our nation’s capitol. We’d take the bus to the Washington Mall area and walk all over the place. On one of these excursions, in 1959, we decided to discover how government worked and visit the Senate.

Barbara had a boyfriend who was working as a US Senate Page. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. He had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

Neither one of us had ever seen Congress in action, and we were excited about it. I still have the Senate pass, which was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. Far too busy to do these menial tasks, the senator’s signature was a stamp.

We made our way to the visitor’s gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate. He was lounging comfortably in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I wasn’t listening to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there.

We took it all in and both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, younger looking man with a great head of hair  at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion going on. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying all if it. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

When he ran for president the next year, we all sat up and took notice.

John F. Kennedy

One Comment

  1. Heather Vesterfelt says:

    Well Vicotria this maybe a re-post but thse words are appropriate for today.

    “Congress…how exasperating! And infuriating…but that’s the government we’ve chosen so we must live with it and eventually vote out those we don’t want.”

    I may have a rubber stamp made!

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