E Pluribus Unum …out of many, one

Brooke's DC CollageBy Brooke Rucker
Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014

I’ve always had a love for history, simply because it gives us so much insight on why things are the way they are today and how they’ve changed throughout the years. Washington, D.C. is the perfect place to learn and experience the past of our own country hands on, even if history isn’t your favorite subject.

I had never been to D.C. before, so I could barely contain my excitement when I found out I was going. Plus, I’m a huge “Scandal” fan, which made the trip that much better. As we landed in the Reagan National Airport, the Washington Monument came into view, and chills broke out all over my arm.

There’s so much to do in the area, so needless to say, our schedule was jam packed with activities. I started off Wednesday morning by getting the privilege to meet my state senators from Georgia, Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue. When I imagine anyone in government, I tend to think of these stiff individuals hunched over piles of paperwork. However, it couldn’t have been more opposite. They were so friendly, both encouraging me to contact them if I ever needed anything. I always feel so honored that I’ve been able to represent my state through this whole journey, and getting to be recognized on The Capitol steps for the accomplishment was the icing on the cake.

My visits with senators weren’t just limited to Georgia, though. I also had the chance to meet with Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions from Alabama. Once again, I had the great experience of meeting two great, down-to-earth men who were excited to hear about the Distinguished Young Women program and how it’s been transforming the lives of girls from all over America.

My last official meeting for the trip was with Congressman Bradley Byrne’s Chief of Staff, Alex Schriver, and Legislative Director, Matt Weinstein. What I really loved about meeting with them is the fact that they’re both so young and yet already so successful with their careers. Alex Schriver became the Chief of Staff at the age of 25 and is now 27. It was a great reminder that you never have to feel limited by your age. When you’re truly passionate about something, go after it full force and don’t let anything get in your way.

As fun as all of these meetings were, and they truly were fun, some of the best parts of the trip were getting to tour the city. My personal favorite was getting to see The Declaration of Independence in The National Archives Museum. Looking on that historically famous document took my breath away. Just envisioning the men who gathered to write and sign to England that America would now be a free country was unbelievable.

To add to the unbelievable moments, we also traveled to Mount Vernon where we had the privilege of going to the very top of George Washington’s house, in the cupola, something very seldom granted (our tour guide, Sue, spoke of the King and Queen of Norway going up there). And of course, we hit all of the must sees such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and last but in no way least, The White House. Standing in front of The White House truly felt like a dream. To think of all of the stories that house must hold as it’s passed on from president to president is mind boggling. I couldn’t resist imagining myself living in that house one day.

Walking around a city with a lifetime of history engraved in every part of it really helps put things into perspective. Even though I was sad to leave, I was glad to know I was leaving with a deeper respect for my country. It made me think, who am I to say something is unachievable? These men gave everything they had, all the way down to their lives, for me to have the life and rights I do now. I plan on honoring that dedication by going after every dream I have, no matter how big or small.

Brooke Rucker is a college freshman at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida majoring in Dance. Originally from Cartersville, Georgia, Brooke was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia for 2014 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014. Learn more about Brooke here!

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