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Monday, February 21, 2011

What we did this Presidents Day

Having an exchange student has opened some doors for us. Today I mean that literally.

Upon meeting our exchange student, our local state senator offered to host us for a day during the regular legislative session. This, being a day off school, and the Colorado State legislature being in session, was the day.

Anyone can go to the public galleries and watch the legislative session. I can not recommend the experience highly enough. We got the special treat of being hosted by a senator. It felt like a huge honor to be allowed onto the Senate floor sitting just behind our senator. He and his aid were generously on hand to explain what was happening. Other guests lined the cavernous room as we listened to 3rd and 2nd readings of today's bills. We also sat in on a committee meeting, joining other citizens while 6 senators discussed SB11-079 and heard public testimony. Although I'm sure I missed a lot of what was happening, especially on the floor, what I saw was fascinating. You can read about the legislative process, and you can even watch it on T.V. But there is absolutely nothing like being there.

I know my husband and I learned a lot today, but I don't know how much the kids will understand and retain. Certainly our exchange student couldn't catch everything that was said, since even my Colorado-born-and-raised ears were challenged. This was such a positive experience that I want to repeat it as the kids get older. Maybe every year on Presidents Day? :-)

So, for those who want more practical details:

We drove for an hour to get to the Colorado State Capitol Building, listening to "The History of US" on the way. That certainly helped put us in the right state of mind. There was paid parking close by, so we had an easy walk to the building.

Upon entering we went through security, just like at an airport, except we got to keep our shoes on. After we found the public restrooms (did I mention that drive?), we went to the senate floor where a Sergeant at Arms had our names and took us in to our senator. We got there at 10am, and listened until 11:15am. At that point the 6yo was pretty much done, so we left for lunch. The senators usually go until ~12pm, break for lunch and then head to committee at 1:30.

We had enough time to walk to the 16th Street Mall and catch the free bus to take us close to the Wyncoop Brewery, and still make it back in time to get to the committee meetings.

Doing this made us want more. There are 3 different tours offered of the Capitol building. Hopefully we'll get to take a couple before our exchange student leaves. Maybe we could add a tour of the Denver Mint while we're there!

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