As I stood outside the gates and peered through the bars of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the White House appeared a lot smaller than I expected it would be. For all the hype and hoopla the famous mansion holds in the grandeur of its name and history the actual size of the place was underwhelming.

The area surrounding the gates of the White House, Lafayette Square, was packed with tourists from across the globe. A smattering of Korean, Arabic, Spanish and even Lithuanian could be heard across the pavilion.

The most notable aspect of being so close to the White House was the amount of protesters assembled in the square.

One large group of demonstrators in particular was gathered outside the gates demanding that Washington stop aiding Israel and supporting lobbyists who continue to promote the “illegal occupation of Palestine.”

They sported Palestinian flags and shouted through the street that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was supporting the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Jewish and Islamic protesters crowded the gates before they marched to the AIPAC conference later in the day.

As my family and I walked further away from the masses I spotted one little girl and her mother carrying signs around their necks. The girl, who couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old, held up her sign proudly. It read: “Dumbledore Would Not Approve.”

I went over to ask her if I could take a picture of her sign, asking her for her name and offering up a high-five before running to catch back up with my family as we made our trek to the Jefferson Memorial.

But throughout the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about this little girl and her sign — it was so simple yet so elegant. She managed to condense the complexities of a huge international crisis that not many world leaders would be able to explain in comprehensible terms. 

I was struck that by referring to such a beloved fictional character who stood for equality and respect for all life, no matter how difficult, she made her cause a universal one.

Seeing that little girl during my trip gave me hope that no matter how dismal or dark our current political atmosphere may seem, with divided party lines and a divided countryside, the call for decency and integrity in America is always ringing. We truly are blessed with the freedom of speech and right to assemble — especially directly outside the gates of our president’s home—and I wouldn’t trade those freedoms for anything. They are what make us uniquely American and allow us to choose our own paths and help others who are born less fortunate onto the same path.

While the size of the White House may have paled to the image my mind had conjured over years of television newscasts and bad action movies, the spirit in which it was founded was vibrantly on display during my visit to our nation’s capital.

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