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Society to toast Capitol education

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

The society that educates the public about the world's greatest symbol of democracy, the U.S. Capitol, is celebrating its 45th anniversary next week.

The United States Capitol Historical Society (USCHS) on Tuesday will celebrate 45 years of educating the public on the history and heritage of the Capitol with a toast.

"We want to get together with the staff and some board members and raise a toast that day to 45 years of existence," said Mary Hughes, director of marketing for USCHS. "We want to acknowledge the world and public to what this organization does, which is to teach people about the Capitol, the most recognizable symbol of democracy."

Former Rep. Ron Sarasin, a Connecticut Republican who served in Congress from 1973 to 1979, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan society has been committed to educating the public about the Capitol building and those who have worked in it since 1962.

"We're pleased to have been so successful as we have been," said Mr. Sarasin, USCHS president and chief executive. "We're able to do something Congress can't do and that's promote the institution in a positive light."

The society gives lectures, tours and seminars about the art and neoclassical architecture of the building.

The society, in conjunction with the National Archives and Old Town Trolley, helps every eighth-grade student in D.C. public schools get a tour of Washington to learn about the U.S. Constitution.

"We feel we have a special mission towards young people," Mr. Sarasin said. "We have a program, in association with the archives and Old Town Trolley, where we take every Washington, D.C., eighth-grader on a tour of the sites of the city and that's been a very successful program."

Mr. Sarasin said Rep. Fred Schwengel, Iowa Republican, founded the society in 1962.

"He had been a history teacher before being elected, and he realized there was no one out there trying to educate the public about the Capitol," Mr. Sarasin said.

Current members of Congress who serve on the society's board of trustees are Rep. Howard L. Berman, California Democrat, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican.