Etgar 36

Philadelphia Day 1

– Aaron Spetter Goldstein 

We woke up at a hotel not far from New Haven, Connecticut. The majority of the day was spent driving down to Philadelphia. I frequently visit New York from Boston, so it was nice for me to be able to look out the window and see the familiar sights of New Haven and Bridgeport through the early stretches of the drive after weeks of unfamiliar terrain. As we crossed over the George Washington Bridge, the entirety of the Manhattan skyline, which I have now become accustomed to after our many days in the city, was clearly visible. We took a bathroom break in North Jersey. From the rest stop, the Empire State Building and Hudson Yards were clearly visible. As we continued South, we stopped for Lunch in Freehold, New Jersey, where Bruce Springsteen grew up. I chose to go to a Diner, New Jersey’s specialty, along with a large portion of the group.
The first thing we did in Philadelphia was meet with political commentator Micheal Smerconish. He briefly told us the story of how he became involved with and eventually left the Republican Party; then, the questions began. We asked him many questions, ranging from his opinion on marijuana legalization to how we can get into a good college, but the topic that seemed to keep resurfacing was that of the 2024 election and the path to victory for the Democratic Party. Smirkonish shared with us his disdain for polarization and the two party system. He also expressed with us his support for and belief in No Labels, a movement to put a centrist candidate on the ballot. 

As we left for South Philadelphia, our conversation with Michael leaked over to the bus, with discussions about centrism versus the merits of more radical movements erupting throughout the vehicle. We had dinner at The Italian Market, home of the inventor of the Philly Cheese Steak, Pats, and its rival, Gino’s, as well as an assortment of other Italian restaurants and markets. Unlike many of the other famous places we visited on our trip, the Italian Market felt not like another Tourist attraction but instead a thriving neighborhood. After dinner, we got back on the bus and headed downtown for our Final activity of the day, touring the historic cities with an Etgar alumn. After briefly hearing about the adjacent U.S. Mint, we toured what was left of the forbearer to the White House, where George Washington had spent his second term, and John Adams spent his first. One of the most striking things about the former building was the space, or lack thereof, which was allocated for the housing of three of George Washington’s slaves. Seeing how little room they were given to live in such a large house really helped illustrate to me how cruel the institution of slavery was. Next, we went to see the Freedom Bell. While I had previously known of the liberty bells used during the revolutionary war, I was surprised to hear of its use in fighting for the Liberty of slaves in the abolition movement. Finally, we went to see Congress Hall, Old City Hall, and Liberty Hall, the pre-1787 equivalents of the Capital, the Supreme Court, and the place where the Declaration of Independence was first read. Seeing how small these three buildings were in contrast to the grandiosity of Capital Hill, which we will soon see in Washington D.C., really helped me gain a perspective on the humble beginnings of the United States.