By Wing Yao (China)
When I saw the ‘Albany Day,’ announcement, I thought that would be a simple trip. We would take a bus to that place and go around the building. But after the Albany trip, I felt it was amazing. This trip allowed me to know more about the American political system and democracy.
There is a big difference between this visit and a visit to the Chinese government departments. I remember when I went to visit the Chinese government offices, two soldiers stood in front of the door to protect the government. I waited in the gate chamber to show my ID and to register. Only after I got the approval of the officer, was I allowed to enter the government office.
Albany offices are open, anybody could enter on Tuesday. When I entered the Albany building, I felt freedom. The building had tour information, McDonald’s, and pizza. The people were very nice. I even wondered, did I just enter a government building?
We joined a meeting with a Senator. In the beginning, I was nervous because I thought the Senator was serious and a little cold. When I passed the security gate and went to the fifth floor, there were many senators’ offices. We had appointments with Kate Glazer, director of legislative affairs, who communicated with us about ESL classes and education issues. Because of the budget cuts, many ESL classes were cancelled and immigrants had to pay for the classes. If new immigrants lose the opportunity to learn English, it will be hard to adapt to their new life in New York. Kate was very nice, she understood my situation and wrote down our questions. I felt respected and equal in the conversation.
We toured the Albany building with our tour guide, George, a capitol interpreter. He had been working in Albany for 30 years and we were lucky to meet him. We went to the main building which has a long history. The walls were made of marble and some sculptures were carved into the marble. It was classic and beautiful. The building had over 100 years of history. George told me, “America has three levels in its political system. The first level is the federal government; the capital and Congress are in Washington, D.C., and the president is Obama. The second level is the state government. For example, the capital of New York State is Albany. The Senators come to Albany from different cities of New York State. The third level is local government; New York City’s mayor is Michael Bloomberg.” Then I asked a question, “Who is Bloomberg’s boss?” Actually, I wanted to know the name of the state governor, but George said, “You, me, and the people.” I was surprised; the feedback was beyond my expectations. Now I really understood what the power of the people meant and that America is an open and democratic country.
I was proud of my Albany trip and impressed by the American political system. It reminded me of the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln, ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’