On Monday, Strategy and Defense Policy (SDP) course participants toured the United States Capitol. Beginning in the Capitol Visitor Center, the tour gave participants an opportunity to explore the architecture and artwork of the Capitol, as well as gain insights into the historical and political development of the United States. Students viewed a short film that outlined the history of the United States and the Capitol building. The film emphasized the concept of e pluribus unum (“from many, one”) and described how this idea serves as a guiding principle for the American political system. The group then walked through the Capitol Crypt, an area originally designed to be the burial place of George Washington. In the Capitol Rotunda, students saw the inside of the building’s majestic dome and learned from paintings and friezes depicting important moments in American history. Finally, the group moved into National Statuary Hall, where they viewed statues, sent by each of the states, of important figures in US history.
Beyond enabling the participants to enjoy one of Washington, DC’s most prominent landmarks only weeks before the US presidential election, touring the Capitol helped to illustrate both how the United States has changed over time and how certain guiding ideals have remained the same throughout the nation’s history. As one of the symbols of the United States and the federal government, the Capitol serves as a unique physical manifestation of American political values. After touring the Capitol, participants came away with a better understanding of those values and how they have shaped the course of American history.