US election: White House visit inspires Bangor Grammar School pupils
A six am start may not have been the most appealing way to kick off day one of our trip to Washington DC following an eight-hour flight, but when a trip to the White House was the prize, everything suddenly seemed that little bit easier to cope with.
ABOUT THE STORY
- Pupils from Bangor Grammar School in County Down have travelled to Washington DC to experience the excitement of a US presidential election
- School Reporters will be sending back regular updates on their trip, offering their perspective on the race for the White House and their experiences along the way
The fascinating insight into the life of the President, as well as his predecessors, was thought-provoking to say the least. For a group of politics and history students, the ability to discover more about how the White House, its functions and its secrets was fantastic.
The day also gave us the opportunity to meet Jill, an active political campaigner from Indiana, who had helped arrange our White House visit through her local Congressman.
She had travelled to DC with her son Ian to spend the morning with our group.
She did not quite know what she had let herself in for, however, as we took the opportunity to ask her as many questions as possible about American politics and her experiences.
Her knowledge and experiences as an on-the-ground activist proved extremely interesting. Unfortunately, our explanations of UK politics couldn't quite match up in terms of enthusiasm…
Seeing the black stone engraved with the names of thousands of dead and missing soldiers made the classroom teaching a reality”
She was also the subject of our first BBC News School Report interview.
In it, she spoke about her hopes for Indiana and her work for Senate-hopeful Joe Donnelly.
It also provided us with the opportunity to challenge her over President Obama's first term record, especially youth unemployment.
Ian was equally as interesting, giving us a look at the political system through the eyes of someone around our own age.
The afternoon was spent visiting the Memorial District, where the one commemorating the Vietnam War was by far the most striking.
For people who had studied the Cold War and the wars within it, seeing the black stone engraved with the names of thousands of dead and missing soldiers made the classroom teaching a reality.
Year 14 pupil, Luke, described it as a "scar on the landscape".
However, the prize for most imposing monument surely had to go to the Lincoln Memorial, which housed a gigantic statue of the 16th US President and etchings of the Gettysburg Address: living political history.
In the evening we "relaxed" in the Verizon Center, watching the Washington Wizards playing the Boston Celtics in an incredibly tense and voice-destroying NBA match.
The home crowd were on tenterhooks up until the very end, when the Celtics held on to win 89-86.
A rendition of the school song was the only suitable way to show Bangor Grammar's support for the Wizards players.
Our first full day in Washington was a long one as we aimed to pack in as much as possible from start to finish.
Overall, day one was a fantastic start to the trip. Exhausted, hoarse and fulfilled, we're ready for whatever the rest of the trip may bring.