Behind the Scenes as a U.S. Congressional Page
U.S. Congressional Page Program gives once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Cotton Electric Cooperative member Brandon Hobbs poses with sponsor Oklahoma U.S. Senator James Inhofe. Courtesy photo
Faxon, Okla. student Brandon Hobbs was appointed and sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Out of 40 students selected for the U.S. Congressional Page Program, Hobbs was the only Oklahoman.
Hobbs encourages all students to experience Capitol Hill and build connections for the future.
Brandon Hobbs, 18, a senior at McArthur High School in Lawton, Okla., spent five weeks in Washington D.C., last summer as part of the U.S. Congressional Page Program, appointed and sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe.
One of a select group of about 40 students, the lone Oklahoman spent time with peers from across the country as they assisted U.S. senators with their summer session business.
For some time, Hobbs’ plans have included attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co., after high school graduation, and applicants need a nomination from a member of congress to be considered. Hoping the page program would be a step toward that nomination, he applied. During the process, Hobbs assumed, if accepted, most of his time would be spent in Oklahoma, with a weeklong trip to the nation’s capital.
But with his acceptance letter also came the surprise that the entire five weeks would be spent in D.C. For this National Honors Society member who had not spent more than a week away from home previously, he explained it was a little “nerve-racking.”
“At first I questioned if I wanted to go,” Hobbs said. “I’m just a boy from Faxon, Okla.—nobody knows where that is.” Faxon is about eight miles south of Lawton, and Hobbs lives there with his mother and stepfather, Kerri and Mike Stephens. Kerri is an instructor in the psychology department at Cameron University, and Mike is a power use adviser for Cotton Electric Cooperative.
Kerri was delighted to learn of her son’s approval into the program. She encouraged Hobbs to go, despite the long trip away from home.
“I’m so excited he got to witness senate proceedings behind the scenes and do some things no one else gets to do. He got to meet presidential candidates,” Kerri said.
Hobbs said it took a few days to adjust to his new surroundings. But it didn’t take long to settle into a routine and establish some friendships. The group would be up at 6 or 7 a.m. daily and spend the majority of the day in the Senate sessions. In addition to setting up desks and documents for the senators, they tended to a variety of their needs to help their work flow smoothly, including some very detailed water orders.
“With their water, they have specified preferences. Chilled glass no ice, room temperature with a chilled glass, sparkling water no ice . . . and they were really specific about it,” Hobbs said, a chuckle escaping from behind a small smile.
“But it’s not all work and no play,” he added.
In their limited spare time, the pages took a monuments tour, visited the Newsuem, National Harbor, Hershey Park and went bowling.
Hobbs has kept in touch with three other students from around the country who served as pages during the summer 2015 session. There has even been talk between these new friends of spending the upcoming spring break together.
After returning home from D.C., Hobbs received the news in December of his acceptance into the Air Force Academy where he will be a college freshman in August. Ironically, the nomination did not come from Sen. Inhofe, but from Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Tom Cole.
Hobbs wants other high school students to know they don’t have to be politically minded to enjoy the page program. He intends to major in engineering, and currently aeronautical engineering is at the top of his interest list. While many of his peers in D.C. knew a lot about politics and want to be politicians, Hobbs said learning about government in general and watching the process was the most valuable part of the experience, even if a political career is not in his future.
“It was like a giant classroom,” Hobbs said.
This battalion commander for junior ROTC and tennis player did not envision himself as part of Capitol Hill, but now that he has experienced it, he wants other Oklahoma students to do the same.
“Just go,” Hobbs said, speaking to any student who might have a similar opportunity. “I was shy. I was scared at first, but you build those connections. It was the best experience of my life so far.”