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A privilege and an honor
By Neil Steinberg / February 4, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...
I had the great honor of being Senator Jack Reed’s guest at this year’s State of the Union Address. So many people have asked about the experience that I thought I might share some details. 
Thanks to Senator Reed, I took a tour of the Capitol on the morning of the speech. It began with a video reviewing the history of Congress. It was a great reminder of the noble intentions of our country’s founders! The 45-minute tour that followed was inspiring. Each state is represented by two statues located around the Capitol building. Rhode Island’s Nathaniel Greene was prominently identified by the tour guide as the very first statue produced for the building. (Later in the evening, I ran into Roger Williams in the hallway.) I was particularly impressed when the tour guide noted my Independent Man lapel pin. 
Senator Reed walked me to my seat in the House Gallery at the required 7:30 p.m. (Upon entering the gallery area above the House chambers, I received the only disappointing news of the day: no phones or cameras allowed in the gallery!) Soon enough, Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner took their seats behind the podium. While Congress took their seats unannounced, there were more formal proceedings for the Supreme Court Justices, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President’s cabinet. And then we heard “The President of the United States,” and President Obama came down the aisle shaking hands. I have to admit, it was a blur after that. 
I felt not only the excitement and honor of the moment, but the real sense of history – thinking of those who have filled the Capitol chambers in the past, of the uniqueness of this event on the world stage, and the knowledge that so many around the country were tuning in. Those of us in the four gallery rows listened intently, with each person deciding when to applaud and when to stand for the many ovations. (Yes, the partisan views of those below us were evident at times.)
Thank you, Senator Reed, for this once in a lifetime experience. Rhode Island is fortunate to have such a thoughtful and committed public official providing leadership in our nation’s capital. Thinking about the experience even now, I feel tremendous pride to have represented Rhode Island and our nonprofit and philanthropic community.
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