Student VoicesBack to student voices archive January 30, 2013
An Insider’s Take on the State of the Union
The State of the Union address is a grand tradition in American politics, when all the government elite come to Capitol Hill to hear the president’s briefing for the year. Millions of citizens watch it on their television sets, but very few outsiders are allowed into the Capitol for this exercise in American democracy.
Alyssa is an intern at PBS NewsHour Extra and was able to help the NewsHour crew cover the events of the night. We asked her to reflect on her experiences, and share what it’s like to be a part of such a historic event.
As a 20-year-old newcomer to Washington, D.C., I was floored when I flashed the security officer at the gate my press pass and he let me walk right through a restricted area of the Capitol, I entered a world that lamentably few Americans get to experience firsthand. My team set up to report in Statuary Hall just outside the chambers where President Obama would deliver his address. We were surrounded by all the biggest names in media; every organization from Al Jazeera Arabic to NPR propped their bulky equipment up next to ornate statues.
I was surprised to hear journalists in the hall feeling jaded, most had been to the State of the Union before and weren’t inspired by the occasion. But no matter how disillusioned everyone claimed to be, even the veteran and hotshot journalists flocked to the middle of the hall, wide eyed to see the procession of government officials to the speech. I was overcome with awe to see all the politicians who represent our nation only a few feet away, laughing together, arm in arm with their guests and spouses. I started tearing up when I ran into my hometown congressman and again when I saw the Supreme Court justices walk by. To look into the eyes of the members of the government I have studied, questioned and revered for so long was deeply humbling.
An unusual calm overcame the tribes of press teams in Statuary Hall as the State of the Union address began. A man resembling a pirate from CNN smiled at me, noticing my almost unreasonable euphoria and said, “this is your day, kid, isn’t it?”
When the speech was over, a stream of representatives (some fleeing the press and some flocking to us) intersected with a stream of government staffers, creating a nearly impermeable moving web of bodies.
I was honored to dart through the crowd, pick out the representatives we wanted to interview and escort them to the NewsHour camera. I realized that like the press members, most politicians were exhausted by the routine State of the Union fanfare, but everyone had a twinkle of excitement in their eyes to take part in this government-media dance, vying for one another’s attention and business cards.
By midnight, the hall had practically emptied. The pageantry was over and the statues in the hall could go on looking noble, unfettered by the flashing of cameras. I left Statuary Hall with an appreciation for the government through a more human dimension and a visceral, passionate fascination for what is to come for the powerful individuals at the Capitol and the hundreds of millions who they represent.
Alyssa is currently an intern at NewsHour Extra. She is also attending a semester journalism program at American University in Washington, D.C.
Tooltip of related stories
Tooltip of more video block
Submit Your Student Voice
Tooltip of related content
Tooltip of RSS content 3
Brexit vote leaves Britain, European Union reeling
The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on Thursday, shocking the rest of the world and leading to the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron.BrexitEuropean Unioninternational politicsUnited Kingdom
Democrats sit-in on House floor to push for gun reform
A sit-in led by Democratic members of the House of Representatives began on the House floor Wednesday as they called for Republican colleagues to allow a vote on gun control legislation. Continue readinggun controlgun reformOrlandoU.S. House of Representatives
Partisan divide continues in Congress over gun control reform
Democrats once again attempted to push forward gun control legislation this week following last week’s massacre at an Orlando nightclub.gun controlmass shootingOrlando shootingU.S. Senate
Murder of British politician changes tone of U.K. Brexit debate
The man accused of murdering a British member of parliament last Thursday made his first court appearance in London on Saturday. Authorities believe Thomas Mair shot and stabbed Jo Cox to death on a street in broad daylight, because of her position to keep the U.K. in the European Union. Continue readingBremainBrexitBritainE.U.economyEuropean UnionimmigrationJo CoxMember of ParliamentmurderparliamentSocial StudiesU.K.United Kingdom
Zika virus shadow looms over summer Olympics in Rio
Concern surrounding Zika virus has taken center stage in Brazil, as local organizers of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games assure the world that the country is safe for athletes and tourists. Continue readingBrazilfavelaGovernmentOlympicspublic healthRio de JanieroRio OlympicsSocial Studiessportssummer olympicsWHOWorld Health OrganizationZika virus