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WASHINGTON —- Walking down a sub­ter­ranean cor­ridor of the Russell Senate Office building one Thursday afternoon, Senator Tom Cotton (R‑AR) was hard to miss. The lanky former Army Ranger ducked into his office, tucked away in the basement’s endless brick walls.

That’s just his tem­porary office, my tour guide junior Daniel Sunne told me. The 114th Con­gress is still in the process of tran­si­tioning offices, so many freshman members are in tem­porary spaces while official offices are cleared out.

Sunne is an intern in the office of Senator Chuck Grassley (R‑IA) this semester while at the Wash­ington Hillsdale Internship Program, and gives con­stituent tours of the Capitol reg­u­larly, some­times more than one in a day.

On this unusually warm Thursday, we took the stairs to the rotunda of the Russell building where members of con­gress are often inter­viewed on camera. Several camera crews set up, as the cof­fered rotunda dome glowed in the spring light.

Sunne is one of three WHIP interns on the hill this semester. Senior Bri Hearn works in the Senate Com­mittee on Health, Edu­cation, Labor, and Pen­sions, and sophomore Emily DePangher interns in the office of Rep. Tom McClincock (R‑CA).

“I usually give one to two tours per week depending on the season so I have lots of chances to try out dif­ferent facts and gauge con­stituents’ responses,” DePangher said.

Spotting VIPs on Capitol Hill is far from rare, but they aren’t often receiving a tour.

Earlier in the semester, Barbara Grassley, Sen. Grassley’s wife, scheduled a tour through the Senator’s office for some of her coworkers, and tagged along for Sunne’s tour.

“She knows a lot of pieces of capitol history,” Sunne said. “And she also got us through security and into the Members’ Gallery to watch the Senate.”

We hopped on the miniature subway that con­nects the base­ments of the Senate office buildings and the Capitol and cleared security before entering the Capitol Visitor’s Center.

A tour of the nation’s Capitol is an essential element of any visit to Wash­ington, D.C.  For interns on the hill, pro­viding the tours is a mem­o­rable expe­rience. WHIP alumni Josiah Kollmeyer ‘14 par­tic­u­larly enjoyed hosting his own family for a tour when they visited Wash­ington among the many other tours he led while interning for Rep. Tim Walberg (R‑MI).

“I was giving a family a tour, and we stopped for a fairly long con­ver­sation by the plaque listing the pas­sengers of Flight 93 — the flight that fought back on 9/11,” said WHIP alumni Josiah Kollmeyer ’14. “I wound up explaining the meanings of courage and chivalry, as best I under­stand them, to a 10-year-old boy named Ransom.”

Pro­ceeding up the esca­lators from the visitor’s center, we stopped in the old Supreme Court chamber where the highest court in the land met until 1860, when it was moved upstairs to the original chamber for the Senate.

“My favorite spot was the Old Senate Chamber because so many of the great com­pro­mises hap­pened there,”  remembers WHIP alumni Ian Swanson ’14, who interned in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives during the spring of 2013. “It harkens back to a time where Sen­ators actually lis­tened on the floor instead of being with lob­byists in their offices.”

Perhaps the most ornate of any area on our tour of the Capitol is the Brumidi Cor­ridors in the Senate wing. Built in the 1850s, the vaulted hallways are covered in murals depicting symbols of America’s her­itage, designed by Italian painter Con­stantino Brumidi.

“It’s off the beaten path, so the hallways aren’t as crowded and its just as beau­tiful and stately as any other part of the Capitol,” Sunne explained. “It’s also used more by Con­gress than the other areas of the tour.”

The building is packed with paintings, murals, and friezes of American his­torical figures. The National Statuary hall is home to just some of the Capitol’s statue col­lection, which includes two his­to­ry­makers from each of the 50 states.

“One of my favorite parts of the tour is the painting by John Trumbull in the Capitol’s main Rotunda,” DePangher said. “The painting depicts Wash­ington handing over the res­ig­nation of his com­mission to the Maryland state leg­is­lature, rep­re­senting civil rather than mil­itary rule and the self­lessness nec­essary to start a republic.”

Our tour visited the chamber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives before returning to Senator Grassley’s office in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Before taking a group for a tour, interns study the history of Con­gress and archi­tecture of the Capitol in order to lead the tour and answer any ques­tions.

“It took me a little over a week to learn the basics about the statues, archi­tecture, and rooms of the Capitol,” DePangher said. “Whether it is dis­cussing obscure Supreme Court cases or bringing in a fun factoid about a major American his­torical figure, I’m always adding onto the material I use for my Capitol tours.”

Swanson uses this expe­rience reg­u­larly as part of his job as Exec­utive Director of the Douglas County Repub­lican Party in Omaha, Nebraska.

“My time on the hill taught me to value the quality of your inter­action with someone,” Swanson said. “If you treat a con­stituent with respect, they will almost always listen to what you have to say. That kind of respect wasn’t always prevalent in DC.”