The Perse School

Three cities, three subjects: on the road in the USA

22 Dec 2015

History, politics and economics were all on the itinerary for a group of 18 sixth formers and two staff who jetted off to the East Coast of the USA earlier this month.

The group packed a huge amount into their five-day, three-city trip. They began in Washington DC where they enjoyed a spectacular illuminated tour of the key sites including the White House, the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. A tour of Congress included the chance to sit in on a debate in the House of Representatives. A talk in the chamber of the US Supreme Court took place in front of the court bench and the nine black chairs from which the most important judicial decisions in the history of the country have been pronounced, including Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and the recent Obergerfell decision on same sex marriage.

In Philadelphia the group explored Independence Hall. They had viewed the original Declaration of Independence and US Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, which, although faded, still clearly showed the signatures of, among others, Benjamin Franklin. In Philadelphia they listened to a talk in the room in which both documents were debated and signed. After enjoying a traditional Philly Cheese Steak sandwich they made their way to the steps from the film Rocky where Head of Politics Peter Richards re-created the legendary moment in the film in which the hero sprints up the steps!

Final stop was New York City where the group were wowed by incredible views from the Empire State building and looked around the financial heart of the city, including Wall Street and the American Stock Exchange. They also saw a fantastic production of School of Rock at the Winter Garden Theatre on Times Square, walked through Central Park and took the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping in downtown Manhattan.

Head of Politics Peter Richards said of the trip:

“The sense of history at the Lincoln Memorial was palpable as we surveyed the view of the Washington Monument and Capitol building from the very step where Martin Luther King Jnr made his unforgettable “I have a Dream” speech.”  Our visit to the World Trade Centre affected us all deeply. Our guide, Ibrahima, gave us a profoundly moving account of his experience on the day of the attacks that did not leave us as we stood immersed in our own thoughts before the 9/11 Memorial. Reflecting Absence consists of a field of trees and two large, recessed pools, the footprints of the Twin Towers. The museum itself has the words ‘No Day shall erase you from the memory of time’ (Virgil).

“There was much to reflect on as we made our return journey to Cambridge. We had seen some of the most important sites in American and world history, enjoyed the vibrancy and intensity of American culture with its soaring architecture and dramatic skylines, as well as having ample opportunity to reflect on both the greatest achievements of humanity alongside incomprehensible suffering. The memories from the trip will last a lifetime.”

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