- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

Exactly one week before I left my small Midwest city for the fast-paced life of a Washington, D.C., intern, a certain film aired that I had been meaning to watch for years. I didn’t believe the timing. Could it get any better than watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” before going to Washington?

I enjoyed the film, including the famous scene where junior Sen. Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, gives a passionate speech during his filibuster to fight the corruption perpetuated by the other senator from his state. But I was most struck by the scene where the young, idealistic Midwesterner arrives at Union Station and, for the first time, catches a glimpse of the Capitol dome. He is amazed and breaks free of his traveling companions to finally see the monuments that embody the ideals he is so proud of — freedom, truth and democracy.

Though this is actually my fourth visit to the District, I always feel like that junior senator. I share his awe when I climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at night. When I take the Metro to Union Station as part of my daily commute and pass through the Great Hall. When I look down from my airplane window and see the city laid out below me. When I meet someone working to ensure that there is freedom, truth and democracy.

I know there is corruption still today, that a great deal of injustice exists among the tributes to freedom, and that people go through their daily lives just like in any other part of the country. But I hope that no matter how long I live and work here, I never grow accustomed to my surroundings or lose sight of the ideals this city is meant to embody.

Jacqueline Palank is a Marquette University senior.

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