Capitol Building, Washington DC
Tuesday night I found myself facing a dilemma. My problem was what to do on Wednesday. I was faced with two radically different alternatives. This was my fourth trip to DC and I had come in two days early so that I could spend the day before the International Space Development Conference sightseeing and photographing – an opportunity I never got to take on my previous three trips.
My plan was to rise early, get tickets to ascend the Washington Monument for a great view of the city, and then head over to the National Academy of Sciences to take in “The Last Iceberg”, an exhibit of photographs by Camille Seaman. After that, more photographing the various national monuments.
Or I could join National Space Society Executive Vice President Greg Allison and visit the offices of several U.S. Senators and Representatives for meetings with aides for the purpose of outlining why the senator/representative should support space in general and full funding for the NASA budget in particular. My mental calculus was this: I could come to D.C. and take photos anytime but how often would I have the opportunity to sit down and speak with legislative staff about the importance of human and robotic space exploration.
The next morning three teams of blitzers met at the Dirksen Building cafeteria for breakfast. Greg Allison, Myrna Coffino, and myself were Team Two. Our first visit was to the office of Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) to meet with Legislative Aide Ryan Habmleton. We had made it through most of our informal presentation when a fire drill ousted us from the building.
After an hour outside, our team split up in order to make both our appointments. Myrna, who is from New York, headed off to visit with Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) Staff Assistant Linda Forman, and Greg, who is from Alabama, and I, whose family is from Mississippi, headed to Senator Wicker’s (R-MS) office to meet with Legislative Assistant Kelly Mixon. I really enjoyed our meeting with Kelly, who was both gracious (southern charm) and attentive. Good vibes all around
Our teams met back at the cafeteria for lunch and then took off for our afternoon round of visits. Our first visit was with Robert Bovard, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). This was followed by a lengthy visit with Mike Buttry, the Chief of Staff for Senator Hagel (R-NB). Mr. Buttry was the highest ranking individual we met with that day and scored “5’s” from us across the board in our post-meeting review. Mr. Buttry demonstrated that he was well informed on the relevant issues. He even volunteered a fair amount of useful advice for us. This, our last meeting of the day, definitely left us feeling good.
Our teams then met up at the American Restaurant in Union Station to have drinks and dinner and compare notes. All in all, the three teams had generally positive feedback from the staffers we met with, which was encouraging. After that we caught the Metro back to the hotel, ditched our suits and ties, and took on a more casual appearance.
Meeting back in the lobby, we ran into Chris Carberry, the new Executive Director for the Mars Society. Chris, Greg, myself, and Rick Zucker – the mastermind and coordinator of the day’s visit to the Capitol, headed out to McCormick & Schmick’s for drinks and eats – in that order. A round of Guiness later we were ready to order. Having already eaten, I opted for desert – smartly taking Lauren’s advice by ordering her favorite dessert – double baked apple pie with a walnut glaze and cinnamon ice cream. FYI, Loren was our waitress and she did an outstanding job. Later I put Greg on the spot by telling Lauren that Greg would write a poem about her before we left. Not one to back down from a challenge, Greg rose to the occasion and wrote a short poem that impressed Lauren and the rest of us. If only I could remember it, I’d reproduce it here.
And that’s where I’ll end this story of my second day -Wed. May 28 – in Washington D.C.
Ad Astra, Jim