EMMETT — Emily Fleming carried the electoral ballots that decided the election of the United State’s 45th president to the joint session of Congress, a formality of the presidential election.
And she witnessed the peaceful transition of power between former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump by attending the inauguration and sitting just rows behind Trump.
“I got to watch history unfold in person,” said the Emmett High School junior. “You could feel the emotion during the transition.”
Emily was selected to serve as a United States Senate Republican page where she spent five months in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol. Her service miraculously overlapped with the transition of presidency.
“I had a duty to observe and learn,” Emily said.
Emily met President Obama, who told the pages they are the future leaders that will control the world one day. She also met then Vice President Joe Biden, who wanted to chat about Idaho’s beauty.
She met President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and she interacted with the nation’s most famous lawmakers, including Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.
“It was unreal,” Emily said.
Emily’s five-month life as a page
Emily started her days at 5 a.m., took part in intense classroom sessions at 6:15 a.m. and often worked late hours running bills and 400-page amendments from one office to another.
“I saw first-hand how our government works,” Emily said. “There is no better way to understand or study the Senate than to live it.”
She worked on the Senate floor preparing the Senate chamber for sessions. She delivered legislation and correspondence inside the Congressional compound and distributed statues and amendments on the floor.
Emily even fetched water for senators as she worked 40 to 60 hours a week.
“You are pretty invisible on the floor,” Emily said.
While on the Senate floor, Emily heard health care, energy and education speeches and witnessed a verbal fight between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and republican senators.
“You weren’t allowed to speak to senators unless spoken to,” Emily said. “Most of the senators would say hello.”
Emily would eat lunch and hang out with lawmakers, interacting with them every day.
“Some senators were nicer than others,” Emily said. “You get to see the different personalities you don’t see on the news.”
Emily’s life in Washington, D.C.
Emily and the other pages lived and went to class in Webster Hall, located near the Hart Senate Office Building. Emily took English, physics, political science and pre-calculus. Classes had to begin at 6:15 a.m. because the pages’ schedules centered on the Senate’s schedule.
Sometimes classes were cut short and made up later in the day, especially if a Senate session started early.
“The hardest part about the job was taking pre-calculus so early in the morning,” Emily said.
During days of senate recess, Emily explored the U.S. Capitol building, she did her homework on the Senate floor working at the desks of lawmakers. She even checked out the bathtubs in the basement, which senators used in 1860.
“Looking at the traditional signatures from past senators on the desks was a special moment,” Emily said.
When not working, the pages would hang out and take trips together on the weekends. The group visited historic sites, attended the Army-Navy football game and went to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and the Baltimore Aquarium.
“I made lifelong friends,” Emily said. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Acceptance into the program
Emily applied through Sen. Mike Crapo’s office by sending in her grades, resume and a summary about her background, and then got selected. Only 30 high school juniors from across the country are selected. It was her first time away from family and friends for five months.
“It was an emotional day moving,” Emily said. “I had to say goodbye to everything I knew. It was very overwhelming.”
Emily doesn’t plan to pursue a career in politics. Her dream is to study either marine biology, astronomy or psychology and attend the University of Virginia.