With the scandal surrounding the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley,
R-Fla., saturating the news, former page Laura Meixell looks back
to her experience working on Capitol Hill during her junior year
in high school.
I am a dead page.
Washington terms, a "dead page" refers to any teenager
who worked for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Every year, high school juniors ages 16 and 17 come from across
the country to Washington to attend special classes and work on
Capitol Hill. They run errands, deliver messages and help keep
the House chambers neat.
My classmates and I called ourselves "dead pages" to
make a point to our predecessors that they were irrelevant to
Because we were the ones wearing the ties, we were "it."
The sun shone only for us. We were pages in a vacuum where no
one else existed - or so we thought.
But that wasn't so.
The world has become interested in pages recently because of the
fallout from Rep. Mark Foley's, R-Fla., admissions that he sent
explicit messages to a young employee.
Of course, it's not the kind of attention we want for the program.
Since the scandal arose, I have been asked about my own relationships
with members of Congress. And, yes, there were some -- especially
during late-night votes. When there was no other place politicians
could go, members would talk to pages.
I remember being cajoled by a member to bounce a ball of rubber
bands on the floor in front of a dozing colleague to get his attention.
During heated debates, a member often would make a memorable comment
to a page just because no one else was there to listen.
There are other memories as well.
Once, when I correctly defined a word used in a technical report
for a group of House members, I was rewarded with some nutty-buddy
There was also the time I was screamed at for not having copies
of something a Congressman had apparently assigned some other
page to do. Eager to get what he needed, I ran out of the chamber
and smashed an oak door right into Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio,
accidentally knocking him to the floor.
While it is fun to reminisce, I'll reflect on how awestruck I
became when I had contact with some House members.
I remember the time when Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., sneezed in front
"God bless you, sir," I said.
"Thank you," he replied. "Have a good day."
I then left and called my mother.
I learned a lot from the program and enjoyed being around other
pages. I learned more about diversity after living and working
with the 65 other pages I met at the Capitol.
Pages all over are now talking about their time on Capitol Hill.
The Foley issue should be addressed, and I think it's very brave
for the young men who received e-mails to come forward.
However, the page program should not be blamed.
If we can't trust children to be around members of Congress, then
Congress needs to change.
The House page program was undoubtedly the best experience of
my life so far, and I think most of us would tell you the same.
Laura Meixell is a junior at American University and a writer
for the American Observer. She served as a page for the U.S. House
of Representatives from 2002-2003. Her editorial was originally
printed in the American Observer, a publication of the School
of Communication at American University.