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Congress is hated, but people still love to visit

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jan 9, 2013
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Congress is hated, but people still love to visit

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jan 9, 2013
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It’s a cold day on a recent afternoon in Washington, and Anne Marchetti, bundled in a scarf, coat and boots, has come all the way from Orlando to stand in line outside the Capitol. 

She doesn’t think much of Congress right now.

“There are a lot of people in Congress who are striving more to keep their positions than they are to just do the right thing,” she says. But she’s still paying a visit, she says, so she can learn how Congress works, and maybe make it better. 

“I do want to learn about these things and be educated about who to vote for,” she explains.  “And I think this will help.” 

Inside the Capitol Visitor Center, spokesman and marketing director Tom Fontana is dying to help.  He’s given around 4,000 congressional tours.  He says the center averages more than 2 million visitors per year, and that’s held steady since it opened in 2008.  Some days they have to turn people away.

“Whether approval is high or low, people want to come to see where their democracy lives,” he says.

And the Capitol is famous. 

“The current environment hasn’t ruined its backdrop value for a selfie,” says Paul Light, who teaches public service at NYU.  Light says people are also fascinated by the history of the Capitol building. 

Others come to the Capitol, because their parents tell them to — like 12-year-old Carlos Rodriguez, who’s on a family trip to Washington.   

“We want to explore and see what we can see,” he says.  “How it works, everything.”

In fact, close to half the Capitol’s visitors are students.  It’s a popular destination for school trips, low approval ratings or not.

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