Spring Break Trip: Visit to Washington, D.C.

This past weekend I kicked off spring break with a trip to Washington, D.C.! I’ve been to D.C. once before, but it was a school related trip when I was in undergrad so I didn’t much have the opportunity to sight-see. There’s so much to see and do in D.C. that it really is a city worth multiple trips; I can’t help but think I’d need to spend a month there before I see even half of what I want to see!

This trip was a Christmas gift from my boyfriend and was focused on two sights: the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, and the Supreme Court. The Udvar-Hazy Air & Space location houses really remarkable aircraft, including my favorite airplane, the Lockheed-Martin SR-71 Blackbird. I had never seen it in person before, so seeing it for the first time was really special. We also got a private tour thanks to my subscription to the Air & Space Museum, and learned so much about all the aircraft in the museum. It was an airplane nerd’s dream come true (including me, as self-admitted airplane nerd)!

The Supreme Court was obviously on the top of my list, too, as I had never been. When I visited D.C. when I was still in undergrad, I don’t think I really understood the gravity of the Supreme Court. Sure, it was right before my senior year and I was in the process of applying to law school already, but it still didn’t really resonate with me until I started taking classes and Constitutional Law, specifically. Once I began really studying law I became acutely aware of the role the Supreme Court plays in both law and decisionmaking in this Country. Not only is the Supreme Court the penultimate court of the United States, it also serves as a co-equal branch of the government and has the ability to proffer checks on both the executive and the legislative branches. I often felt like Constitutional Law class was a sort of map of this country’s history and trajectory. We began with Marbury v. Madisonand McCulloch v. Maryland, where Justice Marshall altered the balance of power and established the Supreme Court into the place it stands today: a branch with co-equal weight and ability among the other branches. We then toured through various important topics in the country’s history and the cases which emphasize their importance. In doing so, I recognized that reading the law that the cases announced was only half of the story; the other half involved the context in which the cases were decided: the culture of the US at the time, the makeup of the Court, the surrounding political environment, and the desires of the other two branches. I was and remain fascinated by all-things Supreme Court.

Visiting the Supreme Court was remarkable. The building is imposing in the best of ways: grand, stoic, strong, and… light. The white stone of the building softens the massive columns and sharp features. It’s almost as if to convey that the Court is powerful but not rigid, and strong but not an antithesis to emotion. It is across the street from the Capitol building and is positioned not unlike the other side of a scale, balancing, watching, and coexisting with the legislative branch.

When you go inside the Court you can take a 30 minute tour which takes place in the single oral argument courtroom and then explore the main hallways which are lined with informational portraits, displays, and statues. Much to my boyfriend’s chagrin, I made it a mission to read the information accompanying almost every display and spent far too much time in the gift shop picking out which book I wanted to take home (I settled on one by Justice Breyer, which also happened to be signed by him). I also spent an inordinate amount of time on the steps of the Court, awestruck by it all. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.

 

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