By Luke Stone ’20
This Monday might not have been the most chaotic day in Capitol Square, but it was certainly just as legislatively substantive.
One week after a well-attended gun rights march on Richmond, Dr. Fred Jordan took his forty US Government and Politics students to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s capital city to experience the bustle of a day in its citizen-legislature, which passed the Equal Rights Amendment on the same day.
The sixth-formers, having put the finishing touches on research papers about their Congressional representatives the night before (or the morning of, in some cases), boarded the bus at 7:25 AM in the hopes of arriving in Richmond by the time committee hearings began at 9 AM. But once they arrived, they knew that Monday was not a typical day on the hill.
The line outside the Pocahontas Building stretched for nearly two blocks down Main Street, where members of the Virginia Education Association waited to attend committee meetings for their “Fund Our Future” campaign calling for higher teacher salaries.
Some students chose to skip the line for the House Appropriations Committee and enter the Capitol itself, where they attended hearings for the Senate Local Government Committee and the House of Delegates Communications, Technology, and Innovation Committee.
At 10:30, Woodberry students climbed the stairs to House Room 1, where they heard powerful Virginia political leaders like Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Louise Lucas, and Attorney General Mark Herring address an audience of largely activists during a press conference celebrating the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Commonwealth.
One small group of students and Mr. Jacob Geiger ’05 ran into Woodberry’s representative in the House of Delegates, Nick Freitas just before lunch. In the impromptu fifteen-minute meeting, the Delegate fielded questions from students about his political philosophy, the bureaucratic process, and his decision to run for US Congress in Virginia’s 7th District.
During the introductions and announcements portion of the House of Delegates docket on Monday, Freitas formally recognized Woodberry Forest on the floor.
“Today on the Capitol Grounds with us, we have students and teachers from Woodberry Forest in Madison County, Virginia,” Freitas said, before reading from the school’s mission statement. “I hope it would be the pleasure of the body to give them a warm House welcome.”
Following a meal at the Meriwether Cafe in the capitol, the boys attempted to find seats in the galleries of the House and Senate, but found long lines. Once sessions got underway, fifteen to twenty students managed to get spots in the gallery of the State Senate.
Before returning to Woodberry, the group convened in the old House of Delegates Chamber in the center of the building to talk with veteran reporter and columnist Jeff E. Schapiro, who has covered the legislature since 1982.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch journalist gave a brief talk about how Virginia politics have changed since he started covering them. He then fielded the group’s questions, which focused on the redistricting and reapportionment process for the General Assembly.