What is Capitol Hill like?
Some people have the idea that Capitol Hill is nothing but fancy government buildings. That is half true. It is also a neighborhood. Families live in row houses, with small yards. Cars are parked on the street because almost no one has a garage. Most people walk to the farmer’s market, coffee shops, work and school. Some take the subway or a bus. But beware: when people live this close together, all the adults know each other. If you do something Melonheaded, your parents will know by the time you get home.
When you were a kid, how far was the U.S. Capitol from your house?
Five short blocks. The closest houses are a block away, right behind the Supreme Court.
Do you see famous people walking around on Capitol Hill?
We see Congressmen and Congresswomen and Senators but usually we don’t recognize them. When President Obama was a Senator he lived in apartment near Madam and Pop’s house but we didn’t know who he was until he ran for president.
Do you see the President driving around?
We see his motorcade, which is parade of black SUVs, two limousines and an ambulance led by police on motorcycles. Some motorcades have 40 vehicles!
What does everybody do?
One team rides near in front and checks for anything that could be dangerous. There is also what is called a counter assault team. In case of an attack it is their job to fight back. Doctors ride inside in case the president is hurt or gets sick. If there was an emergency, the eight most important vehicles, which the Secret Service calls the “secure package,” would race away to safety.
Why do they call it that?
The Secret Service uses lots of code names. President Obama’s codename is “Renegade,” Mrs. Obama’s is “Renaissance,” Malia is “Radiance,” and Sasha is “Rosebud.” When the president is not in the room, White House workers call him POTUS, which is short for President Of The United States.
Can you see the president inside his limousine?
No. All car windows are black so you can’t tell which limousine is carrying the president or who is in the SUVs. One limousine is a decoy.
Do people go crazy with excitement?
Completely. Even though we can’t see inside the president’s car, the president can see out, so lots of people wave like mad at the motorcade.
Are motorcades fun to watch?
Yes. That’s lucky because when a motorcade is coming all other cars must stop and wait. It’s the law. It doesn’t take long because the president is allowed to run red lights.
Do you see Sasha and Malia Obama?
I have not but lots of people have because they do regular kid things, like go to school, and the movies and out for pizza with their friends. Wherever they go the Secret Service is with them.
Do you know the dog, Bo Obama?
I do not but my cousins took a White House tour and saw Mrs. Obama training Bo on the White House lawn.
Have you been to the White House?
Many times. During the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, I was a reporter, first for People magazine and later for USA TODAY. My job was to write stories about the first ladies and White House events. I wrote stories about state dinners and other parties. I liked watching watched the presidents and their wives dance in the grand foyer and famous musicians entertain in the East Room. But the part I liked best was getting to see the private places like the kitchens and talk to the butler about getting ready for a party.
What do you do when you meet the president?
When you are invited to the White House you should stand up when the president comes in the room. That’s good manners. You should always call him Mr. President. Also, give him a nice handshake. If you meet Mrs. Obama, you should call her Mrs. Obama.
Is the White House the most important place you have ever been?
The most important place I have ever been was my own front yard on August 28,1963. Tens of thousands of people walked by our house on their way to see Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. give his famous I Have a Dream speech. Even though it was hot, the ladies wore high heels and church dresses. The men wore suits and ties. My mom, my brother, Mike, and my sister, Meg, and I passed out free lemonade and cookies all day long. My sister, Nell, missed it because she wasn’t born until six days later.
KATY KELLY © 2017 All rights reserved
Cover Illustrations by Gillian Johnson