My Son’s Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland (outside Washington, D.C.) organized a free, optional school trip to the White House, the main seat of government in the United States, the residence and business of the President and the first American family. Due to the young age of the students, the school administration contacted the parents to inform them that each student can take two people with him on this trip. From here I decided to go with my son, and since my wife was busy, we also took the youngest son with us.
We moved separately after that, each person trying to control the behavior of his children amid the increasing voices, and some of them screaming while playing and running between the halls and rooms of the White House, there was a limited number of security men inside, but they only took pictures of us and them with the children in Pleasant atmosphere for all.
We went on time, and there was a long line of more than 100 people, and we the parents stood with teachers and students exchanging opinions on the meaning of opening the White House to students at this early age. We talked about the White House, its history, and its importance, and it was a pleasant surprise for my two sons that their father was the only one among the parents who had entered the White House several times (official press and social occasions). We did not go around the White House, did not go up to the second floor in which the president and his family live, and did not enter the offices of senior White House workers, and the visit was limited to nearly a quarter of the house, which includes a number of the most important and largest rooms, and halls that witnessed historical events, as well as surrounding gardens.
As we approached the security screening gate, we were divided into two teams, one for Americans, and the other for non-Americans, and they were the majority in the audience. The inspection procedures took only a few minutes, and included only passing through an electronic gate, such as those at international airports, and no mobile phones were taken from us, and minutes later everyone, Americans and non-Americans, were inside the South Lawn of the White House.
We moved separately after that, each person trying to control the behavior of his children amid the increasing voices, and some of them screaming while playing and running between the halls and rooms of the White House. There were a limited number of security men inside, but they only took pictures of us and them with the children in a cheerful atmosphere for everyone. On the walls of the large rooms of the house are spread pictures painted in oil of most of the presidents of the United States, without distinguishing between a Republican and a Democrat, nor between those who remained in power for 4 years or those who remained in power for 8 years. The White House is a wonderful architectural masterpiece, and it is among the oldest group of government buildings in Washington, and all US presidents worked and lived in it except for the first President George Washington. Its construction was completed in 1792 after the end of President Washington’s rule, and the cost of construction at that time was about 232,000 dollars. The price of the White House today – according to real estate experts – is approximately 110 million dollars.
Such school trips for primary school students are aimed at introducing children to important values that will last them for the rest of their lives. These trips in the United States are not limited to political institutions such as the White House, Congress, the Supreme Constitutional Court or various ministries, but extend to include trips that contribute to building various beautiful values, some of which are related to preserving the environment, showing the difference between American regions, and learning about life outside cities. Among the trips that my young children took me with, as an escort, were trips to green areas and specialized farms, where the students were introduced to the life of farmers, their animals, crops, and the traditional and modern equipment they use. The student spends a whole day helping the farmers in their work, including taking care of their animals. On another trip we went to a strawberry farm, and the students spent hours collecting strawberries, and the farm owner decided to allow each student to take a part of what he collected for himself, and of course the students were overjoyed to return to their homes carrying a quantity of strawberries they collected in their hands.
Childhood is the most important stage of inculcating concepts and values, especially with regard to the citizen’s relationship with the institutions of governance, and the person’s relationship with nature and the environment around us. Such activities contribute to giving the child the values of national loyalty and make him aware from the early stages of his life of constants that do not know fear or dread, or the existence of gaps between him as a citizen and the most important institutions and symbols of government in the country in which he grows up. From here, the young student, and the great citizen, does not fear the White House or Congress and the offices of its members.
Making government institutions available to citizens, young and old, reflects important values, and creates healthy relations between the two parties, with which neither party becomes a loser, neither in the short nor the long term.
The collective mind of students, children, youth, and citizens is formed from various accumulated experiences, and among the experiences available in the United States, there are many seats in all rooms and halls of Congress, where committees of hearing and interrogations are held for senior American officials who are only a few meters away from the general public who attend these sessions without No conditions other than early attendance to ensure a well-located seat.
How many of our schoolchildren have had the opportunity to enter the Arab palaces of government or the sovereign courts? How many of them have been taught since childhood that those who occupy these palaces are only his servants and public servants to the rest of the students and to all citizens?