Reporter’s notebook: Shared childhood experiences

The day before the inauguration, I was walking across the east front of the Capitol, through the massive crowds of people who had arrived in town to pick up their inauguration tickets from their members of Congress. On the Senate side of the building, I passed a group of people in their late 30s.  They were singing, “I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.”

I knew that the catchy Schoolhouse Rock tune would be stuck in my head all day, but I couldn’t really begrudge the group – it’s a fun song and it’s really quite informative, covering everything from how a bill may die (“Die?” “Yeah, die, in committee!”) to how the veto works (“You mean even if the whole Congress says you should be a law, the president can still say no?”) in campy style.

I thought about how odd it was that I often thought of the song myself when I pass the Capitol, how I could have the same kind of childhood memory as a group of thirtysomethings thanks to Schoolhouse Rock re-runs on ABC Saturday mornings and my A.P. Political Science teacher.

On the House side of the Capitol a minute later, I was in for a pleasant surprise: a group of pre-teen boys singing the exact same song. I was happy to know that, at least for a while, the childhood experience will continue to be a shared one.

And with youtube, I suspect it will live on for a long time, even though you don’t see Schoolhouse Rock on television very much these days.

Where a bill becomes a law, as seen from the terrace of the Newseum. The Canadian Embassy is in the front.

Where a bill becomes a law, as seen from the terrace of the Newseum. The Canadian Embassy is in the front. Photo by Jillian Jorgensen.

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