Spring 2012

A Shocker Presence in D.C.


Every week as the airplane door closes, the same thought crosses my mind, "Now, when do I come back home?"

The second year of my weekly commute to Washington, D.C., is less anxiety-filled, but I still leave each time thinking of Kansas. With a full year under my belt as a Congressional spouse, I know my way around (that may be overstating it), can make restaurant recommendations and give tours of the White House (my WSU student tour guide experience is finally paying off ).

I have my favorite Capitol Hill police officers, my favorite tour guide at the Library of Congress, my favorite Smithsonian (American History) and my favorite crab cakes (Old Ebbitt Grill).

Of those of us who are in D.C. every week, we each choose to define our roles differently. I choose to go to the office every morning.

When encouraging Kansans to come visit, I have favorite stories that include proudly planning activities for visiting family, including a ferry transfer down the Potomac to take us to the Kennedy Center — except I bought tickets for a ferry going the wrong direction, so we were treated to a 10-second visit to Maryland and a footrace off the dock to hail a cab to the Kennedy Center for our 8 p.m. show; the smell and the music at the Botanical Gardens, decorated for Christmas; how my breath is taken every single time I see the masses of white crosses at Arlington Cemetery; and how I love watching children visit Washington — their amazement and appreciation are inspiring. So now I am armed to help.

And helping is how I spend my time in Washington. There's a fairly small band of Congressional spouses who return weekly. It didn't used to be that way. It used to be that when Mom or Dad was elected to Congress, the family moved to Washington. Not anymore, and with sensible reasons. It's expensive to live in the D.C.-area, and families often prefer to live back home and stay connected. With my son, Nick, in college, we had the glorious option of commuting together — and so, we do.

I have made friends with many of the spouses who also commute, as well as with those I only see at big events throughout the year. Of those of us who are in D.C. every week, we each choose to define our roles differently. I choose to go to the office every morning with Mike. I scan the newspapers, grab a cup of coffee from the cafeteria in the tunnel and look at the daily schedule.

I look for several things: Who is visiting from Kansas? Are there events or receptions where we need representation? Does Mike have any committee hearings? When are votes? (I could sit for hours listening to hearings and watching votes. Like a fly to light bulbs. I want to hear intellectual debate carried out with decorum and respect on the House floor. And votes are often the only time members can catch each other to visit. I like to see that interaction.) Also, I may have activities of my own — tours, luncheons, meetings or community service.

Recently, The Congressional Club hosted its most prestigious affair of the year, the First Lady's Luncheon. In 1908, the founding club purpose was to provide a non-partisan setting for friendships among the spouses of former and sitting members of the House and Senate, Supreme Court Justices and the President's Cabinet.

The 2,000-plus guests at this year's luncheon celebrated the 100th First Lady's Luncheon, although in 1912 the club held a breakfast to honor the First Lady! The chair this year was Helen Green, who lives in Houston with her husband, Congressman Gene Green, and, following tradition, a Texas theme was carried throughout the festivities: from the menu, to the favors, to the dedicated charity — proceeds from the luncheon will be going to Houston's Healthcare for the Homeless.

For me, it's visiting with constituents that I find most gratifying. I appreciate each opportunity: snapping pictures of families around Mike's desk or reading through letters received from constituents. In 2011, thousands of Kansans visited the Washington and District offices and an average of 1,000 inquiries (phone calls, letters, emails) were received each week.

And for the Shockers who come to visit — they won't be disappointed! There is a definite WSU presence in both offices (sometimes not so subtle, like the banner that was hung in the DC office during the NIT!). Artwork and photography by talented WSU alumni grace the walls, and there are Shockers on staff, ready to help.

You may not be able to find any front-door parking in D.C., but you will find a new Shocker presence in town — I'll be looking for you!


A Shocker Presence in D.C.

Of those of us who are in D.C. every week, we each choose to define our roles differently. I choose to go to the office every morning.