One of the great blessings of attending college in Washington, D.C. is the opportunity to routinely witness history. When Glenn Beck held his historic “Restoring Honor” Rally, George Washington University students were among the people in attendance. When John Stewart and Stephen Colbert staged their response, even more students flooded onto The Mall. When Osama bin Laden was killed last May, the first students who rallied at the White House were my GWU classmates. On any given day, hundreds of interns from GWU are hard at work in the U.S. Capitol and The White House.
This week, The United States Supreme Court will hear one of its most important cases since Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Court will be hearing the case for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the landmark healthcare legislation that has defined Barack Obama’s presidency. On Tuesday, the Court will hear specific arguments regarding the most controversial part of the healthcare law, the government mandate that requires all U.S. citizens to buy health insurance. The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision will be Constitutional as well as political, and will define the role that government can play in the lives of individuals.
As ambitious GW students who are always looking to stand out, a handful of my fraternity brothers and I will be doing all that we can to get into The Supreme Court for the oral arguments on Tuesday. We intend to be in the Supreme Court for this historic debate, even if it means camping outside from tonight onward.
As I joked with a Concord Monitor reporter, we are not camping out in protest. We are not ‘occupying’ anything; We won’t be holding signs or shouting at passersby; Our bi-partisan band of Beta Theta Pi brothers are simply on a mission to hear one of the most important Supreme Court debates in recent times. Rather than bring signs and megaphones, we will be bringing light meals, snacks, drinks, and some of our homework for the coming week.
There’s no guarantee that we will make it in for the arguments. With only 50 public seats available, there may be a large crowd at The Court before we arrive. One advantage that we have is that the oral argument in which we are interested does not take place until Day Two, so we may be able to hear the argument even if we are at the end of a daunting line to begin with.
Some people have asked me, “What if you wait all that time and don’t make it in? Will you be upset?” It would be less than ideal, I tell them, but I won’t be upset. The opportunity to visit the Supreme Court is a rare one, and the opportunity to camp outside of it is an opportunity reserved only for the craziest, most nerdy Americans of them all. This will be a unique, historic experience whether we reach the Supreme Court chamber or not.
It speaks to power and vision of the Constitution that a group of college students can hear the brightest minds in the country discuss its contents. The Supreme Court is one of the pillars on which our Democracy stands, and it is amazing that we may be able to witness it in person.