THE STATE OF THE UNION

Hello.

Last week President Obama gave the State of the Union Address to both Houses of Congress. Did you see it? I always like to watch it on TV if for no other reason than it makes me feel sentimental. That’s because my son, Taylor, during his junior year in high school served as a House Page. That experience gave not only Taylor, but our whole family, an up-close and personal perspective on the workings of Congress on Capitol Hill.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 111th Congress House Page Class | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Taylor Back Row, 7th From Left

When I see the halls of Congress on TV it reminds me of the times when, as the parent of a House Page, I got to visit the floor of the House Chambers and sit in those big fat brown leather seats that have been occupied by our Congressional leaders for decades. Cameras aren’t allowed inside the chambers, so I was never able to take photographs, but the memories will live with me forever.

As it states on the Congressional website, “For more than two centuries, young people served as Pages in the U.S. House of Representatives and enjoyed an unparalleled opportunity to observe and participate in the legislative process in “the People’s House.” The expectations and experiences of House Pages, regardless of when they served, have been linked by certain commonalities”:

  • witnessing history
  • interacting with Representatives
  • taking away lifelong inspiration to participate in civic life.

Taylor certainly did get to “witness history” as a House Page when he was in attendance for President Obama’s very first address to a joint session of Congress back in February of 2009.

AP File Photo

AP File Photo

That is Taylor just to the left of Joe Biden as he entered Congress for that first address. It was very historically significant because it was the first time an African American President would address Congress.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 111th Congress House Pages with Vice President Biden | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

At last week’s State of the Union address, current Senate Pages were seen clamoring for the President’s autograph or a handshake.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A similar photo of my son and his fellow Pages was published by the Washington Post back in 2009 after that famous first address to Congress.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S 1st ADDRESS TO CONGRESS, FEBRUARY, 2009 | 111th Congress House Pages with Pres. Obama | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Acting as a Page for the United States Congress was such an amazing experience for Taylor and his fellow Pages. And it was quite a thrill for the proud parents as well, as we witnessed our children taking the oath of service and actually being sworn into Congress. This is done in the same manner that our Congressmen are sworn-in, in a ceremony presided over by the Clerk of the Congress, seen below welcoming Taylor into the program.

110th Congress House Page Taylor Imperiale being sworn in by The Clerk of the Congress| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Marine Band played, the Color Guard marched and Representative Steny Hoyer gave a moving speech.

111th Congress House Page Swearing In Ceremony| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I was bursting with pride and excitement as I pinned Taylor’s Page nametag onto his blue blazer, the traditional uniform that has been worn by House Pages for decades.

111th Congress House Page Taylor Imperiale | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comTHE STATE OF THE UNION | 111th Congress House Page Program | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As a House Page, not only did Taylor get to work alongside and interact with our country’s leaders, he also got to meet various dignitaries and celebrities. That’s Taylor in the far left of the photo below with John Kerry.

111th Congress House Pages with John Kerry | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And there he is with Karl Rove.

111th Congress House Pages with Karl Rove | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And that’s Taylor on the far left with actor Rob Lowe, who, if you remember, was famous for his role in the television series The West Wing. Taylor called me that day a little upset because he was asked to give Rob Lowe his Page Pin. Pins are an important part of a Page’s uniform, and have special significance to Pages, as one must serve as a Page to receive one. Taylor was worried his pin might not ever be replaced, and in fact, it did take a while for him to be given another. I hope Rob Lowe is taking good care of that special pin.

111th Congress House Pages with Rob Lowe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Since House Pages are all 17 years of age and in their 3rd year of high school, not only did they serve Congress as the youngest, full-time paid employees of the United States government, they also had to attend school. All of these young men and women were students at the top of their classes at home, many vying for Valedictorian at their home schools. Grades and class ranks had to be kept up if these young people were going to graduate with honors and get into good colleges. Therefore, Congress conducted 11th grade high school classes in the Page School, located in the attic of the Library of Congress.

111th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

House Pages rode the elevator to a space overlooking the library’s gallery…

111th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

where they spent the very early hours of every morning in the school, affectionately dubbed Pageland, before reporting to work on the House floor every day Congress was in session.

111th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

111th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

111th Congress House Page Class | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Pageland classrooms were arranged around the perimeter of the attic of the Library of Congress…

Page School Directory

and even had brown leather chairs similar to the ones on the floor of the House.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 110th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comTHE STATE OF THE UNION | 110th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Windows on the inner side of the hallways looked down into the gallery of the Library of Congress…

111th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

while many classroom windows had this birdseye view of the capitol.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 110th Congress House Page School | Library of Congress | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The Pages were housed in a residence hall located on Capitol Hill. As juniors in high school, this gave them their first taste of living away from home.

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 110th Congress House Page Dormetory | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Taylor arrived to find his name on the door of his dorm room with the title “Representative” attached to it. Just as they said at his swearing in ceremony, (and it then became clear) Taylor really was an official member of The United States House of Representatives!

THE STATE OF THE UNION | 110th Congress House Page Program| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

All the Pages were outstanding, smart and accomplished young men and women from around the country, each one recommended by the Congressman or woman of their districts. The pins on this map indicate the hometowns of the 50 Pages Taylor served with in the 111th Congress.

111th Congress Map showing home states of House Pages| www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Sadly, in 2011 the leadership of Congress decided to discontinue the centuries old tradition of the House Page Program, one that had served Congress since 1827. In cost-cutting efforts, the United States House of Representatives decided not to fund the mere 5 million dollar a year budget it took to run the House Page Program. With it died a important part of our country’s history and tradition. So very sad. I don’t think the state of the union will ever be the same without it. I am pleased to say, however, that the United States Senate has kept the Senate Page Program alive and well.

As I mentioned above, the 3rd thing Pages generally take away from their experiences working on Capitol Hill is a lifelong inspiration to participate in civic life.  That is certainly true of my son, who will soon be studying law at The University of Chicago and hopes to one day practice law on Capitol Hill. A number of current and former Congressmen once served as Pages and Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, was one of them.

So there you have it: THE STATE OF THE UNION & THE PAGE PROGRAM ON CAPITOL HILL

Thanks for dropping in!  Do please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.

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