What an amazing night for Trinity! On Capitol Hill in the House Chamber, there was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Trinity ’62, gaveling the joint session of Congress to order and announcing the arrival of the President of the United States. Following the State of the Union Address, from the governor’s mansion in Topeka Kansas, there was Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Trinity ’70, delivering the Democratic response to a national audience. Up in the Speaker’s Gallery, a privileged witness to the proceedings, there was your humble blogger, Trinity’s president, absorbing the entire scene with the glee of a frosh Poli-Sci major. Out and about in Congressional offices, Trinity students and alumnae who work on the Hill were watching the proceedings from various vantage points.
Watching a State of the Union event “live” in the gallery is amazing. The moment is Classic Americana, with all of our top government officials gathered in that one place to hear the speech, but also to conduct untold other business informally. From the Speaker’s Gallery I could see Senator Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy hugging and greeting other senators and members of Congress — earlier in the day Kennedy endorsed Obama, and so the crowd around them was eager to discuss the moment, I’m sure. Up in the press box, scores of long Canon lenses were trained on the two senators, but then Senator Hillary Clinton entered the chamber and the focus shifted as she chatted up Senator Joe Biden and others.
Suddenly, the Speaker’s gavel rang out, and the Supreme Court marched into the chamber in stately robes, followed by the Joint Chiefs resplendent in decorated uniforms, and then the President’s Cabinet. Everyone seemed eager to greet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Finally, the Speaker’s gavel banged again and the Sargent-at-Arms announced, “The President of the United States” and the place went wild. Yes, even Democrats cheered — there are times when partisan bickering must be set aside to respect the majesty of office and seriousness of the moment. Of course, the unity of the room didn’t last long — State of the Union addresses are notorious for eliciting partisan cheering on one side of the room or the other, and last night was no exception.
President Bush’s speech covered the universe of vital topics of the day, eliciting more cheers from Republicans and some jeers from Democrats on issues ranging from tax cuts to health care to war policy. But when it came to honoring American troops abroad and at home, every single person in the room leapt to their feet to cheer, showing our unanimous support for our American military personnel.
After the speech, the Speaker’s guests retired to her chambers where we watched Governor Sebelius give her remarks on television. I can honestly say I had goose bumps as I sat with Speaker Pelosi while watching Governor Sebelius — what a great generation of Trinity Women! Whatever political party any one of us chooses, and whether we agree or disagree on the various political issues, all of us in the Trinity family must have felt a special sense of pride last night as our Trinity leaders took center stage. They present a remarkable example of leadership for our students to admire, learn from, and aspire to emulate in the future.