Patrick Bryant ’16 – The students of the Rhetoric Department’s Voices of America course send you greetings from our nation’s capital.  As you’ve read over some of my classmates’ posts, you can tell we’ve already had a great day and a half exploring the sites and examining the rhetorical strategies behind the nation’s most iconic monuments and museums.

Today was a great opportunity to make site visits, gain some insight into the lives of some of Washington D.C.’s professionals, and have a chance to ask both policy and “day in the life” questions.  The site visits included stops at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, a visit at the U.S. Capitol Building through Senator Joe Donnelly’s office, and an evening talk hosted by D.C.’s very popular Newseum.  The conversations and the sights made for a very worthwhile day and it was an honor to meet with Senator Donnelly for a few minutes this afternoon.

I want to talk specifically about some of the rhetorical agents witnessed in our visit to the U.S. Capitol.  This was my second visit, and we were very fortunate to have the assistance of Andre Adeyemi ’12 and Senator Donnelly’s office, to enjoy a semi-private tour.  We watched the 14-minute introductory video in the Capitol Visitor’s Center.  The video highlighted the strength, prominence, and evolution of the nation’s legislative branch.  Approval ratings and congressional gridlock aside, the video is meant to put the Congress in a light where it’s a direct representation of the American public.  It talked about the evolution of ideas, through the legislative process, to become the laws of this land – no mention of special interests, the power angling, and the debt crisis.  The movie and the ensuing guided tour through old chambers of the legislature and Supreme Court made for a tremendous history lesson, and rhetorically the unity between new and old demonstrated the keen importance of tradition, but the message of the movie coupled that with an eye towards progress.  The movie highlighted the discussions of slavery as the nation grew in the first half of the 19th century, but the tone changed as civil rights legislation took center stage in the 20th century.

Meeting with the Senator and hearing what he had to say gave us some perspective into the rhetoric that encompasses his role.  He referred to his office as “our” office, the office of the people of Indiana.  In a geographical area where symbolism is king, Senator Donnelly’s comment certainly garnered my respect.

I want to extend my thanks to the leadership of our classroom professor and leader of this trip, Professor Sara Drury, and the assistance of Professor Shamira Gelbman of the Political Science Department.  This has been an incredible experience and without the generosity of the friends of the College, these immersion experiences would not be possible.  I certainly hope that you take time to read the posts from my classmates as they share with you more stories from the week’s experiences.