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UI frosh served as a Congressional page

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | AUGUST 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ben Olson was once responsible for raising one of the most recognizable American flags in the country.

As a Congressional page during his junior year of high school, the incoming University of Iowa freshman climbed up flights of stairs and walked through an attic to reach the roof of the House of Representatives.

The 19-year-old spent nearly five months in Washington, D.C., doing representatives’ “dirty work” and learning to live on his own. The Waterloo native worked for Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, delivering Congressional mail and distributing flags to families who requested them.

Olson stayed in a residence hall in the Capitol Hill neighborhood with three roommates, only a few blocks from the Capitol.

He said the experience has helped him adjust to his new living situation at the UI, though the rules in Washington were much stricter. He adhered to a 10 p.m. curfew — even on Fridays and Saturdays — and was responsible for doing his own grocery shopping for the first time in his life.

But in addition to learning how to live on his own, Olson and his family said the teen gained a wealth of knowledge during his stay.

“He learned so much about how our laws are made,” said Linda Olson, Ben Olson’s mother. “I think he matured.”

The tall, slender college novice said he liked the diverse Washington area, but he is already partial to Iowa City.

“I really love how the university is really incorporated into the town,” he said before he attended OnIowa events on the afternoon of Aug. 20.

Brian Winkel, his former newspaper adviser in high school, said Ben Olson had “real wisdom” and is a great writer.

“He had a good way of pulling things together,” Winkel said.

Winkel also said he noticed a difference in Olson after he returned from Washington, D.C.

“I could see real growth there,” he said.

Winkel noted that Olson always supported his high-school newspaper staff and was always willing to help out others with assignments.

“He never let us down,” Winkel said.

Olson said his time in Washington, while educational, did not inspire him to pursue a similar career to the people he was working for.

“I don’t have a desire to be in politics,” he said, adding he might consider gaining some journalism experience during his time at the UI.

Dressed in black and gold Hawkeye attire and sitting in his extremely organized Daum dorm room, he seemed calm about the new school year.

“I think I’ve matured since [working as a page],” he said.


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