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Rural Missouri Magazine

Dispatches from D.C.
On the bus with the Missouri Youth Tour

by Jeff Joiner

Day 1: Saturday, June 16

Missouri Youth Tour delegates (from left) Colt Lackey, Lisa Martin and Adam Smoot visit the grave site of President John F. Kennedy which is topped with an eternal flame. The delegates visited Arlington National Cemetery on their first full day of touring the nation's capital.

There were a few grumbles and a lot of sleepy eyes at 6:30 a.m. as the Missouri Youth Tour delegates began trickling into a Jefferson City banquet room for breakfast on Saturday following an orientation the night before. The 2001 Rural Electric Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., had begun.

The drive to St. Louis passed quickly as the delegates got to know their bus mates better. Our first snag occurred when TWA gave 12 of our seats away to standby passengers. Three chaperones and nine of the kids took a later flight into Baltimore, caught shuttle buses and met the rest of the gang at our hotel in Arlington, Va. No harm done.

We arrived in Washington, D.C., to gloomy, rainy skies, but that didn't dampen anyone's spirits.

After dinner we headed out for a night tour of the Lincoln Memorial. We also visited the Korean and Vietnam War memorials. Both monuments are haunting and moving at night, especially the Korean War memorial which consists of life-size statues of a platoon of American soldiers crossing a rice paddy.

Day 2: Sunday, June 17

The day dawned bright and sunny as the delegation boarded buses to travel to Arlington National Cemetery where we visited President John F. Kennedy's grave. The students learned that Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, long before these 17-year-olds were born.

After watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns we headed to visit the museums of the Smithsonian Institute. One day at the Smithsonian was hardly enough. There's so much to see.

Sunday night the Missouri kids boarded a ship for a nighttime cruise of the Potomac River. While the chaperones enjoyed a moonlit night on the top deck, the delegates spent the evening below deck where the music was loud and the dancing nonstop.

Where does all that energy come from?

On Tuesday morning the Missouri students visited Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. The delegates enjoyed a beautiful view of Washington's house.

Day Three: Monday June 18

Monday is Youth Day which means all 3,500 delegates spend the morning at a huge pep rally at the hotel. The delegates learned more about rural electrification and the political process in Washington. They also had a lot of fun singing songs, cheering and generally being as loud as possible.

Following the Youth Day activities at the hotel all 3,500 delegates regrouped on Capitol Hill for another rally. It was a stirring moment as the delegates gathered on the steps below the brilliant white of the United States Capitol.

Monday night we went to Camden Yards in Baltimore, Md., where the students got into the spirit of Major League Baseball.

We all became diehard Orioles fans, at least for one night, as we watched Baltimore beat the Toronto Blue Jays. Go team!

Day Four: Tuesday, June 19

Tuesday morning and we were back on the buses heading out to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. The delegates enjoyed the beautiful view and took many photos — Hey, mom and dad! Get ready for a big film bill!

The grounds of Washington's estate are beautiful with fabulous gardens. You can almost imagine America's first president returning home on horseback and riding up the path to the house.

After lunch at Planet Hollywood we toured the National Cathedral. Teddy Roosevelt was president when they laid the cornerstone of this magnificent building and they're still working on it!

Tuesday night we treated to a special performance of U.S. Army bands and a rifle drill team on the Ellipse between the Washington Monument and the White House. Man, those guys are good!

Youth Tour Director Mike Marsch joined the Missouri delegates Artie Randal (left) and Greg Patterson, both from Winfield, in celebrating a win for the Balitmore Orioles over the Toronto Bluejays.

Day Five: Wednesday, June 20

This was one of the toughest days of the week — and one of the most thrilling. We were all dressed up with lots of places to go!

We all had appointments with either our elected representatives or their staffs. We split up into groups by congressional district and toured the Hill while we were waiting for our meetings. Between touring the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress and the Capitol, walking over to Union Station for lunch and back to the Hill the delegates really pounded the pavement.

But to a delegate they said it was worth it. After all these years hearing and reading about Congress it is really something to see it with your own eyes! And to meet a Congressman or Congresswoman and ask questions — what a privilege!

Tonight we got back together with the rest of the 3,500 Youth Tour delegates for the all-states dinner and dance. Funny, but nobody was complaining of sore feet at the dance.

The delegates probably could have danced all night but 10:30 rolled around and they all turned into pumpkins — or at least headed back to their rooms to pack and then enjoy a pizza party with the Missouri chaperones.

It's late, tomorrow will be here sooner than we would like. Thursday will bring a long trip home and sad goodbyes. It's been a long hard week. Everyone is dog tired.

But it's a happy tired, a wonderful feeling that comes from spending an amazing week making new friends and seeing spectacular sights.

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