Bringing Mardi Gras to the Hill

Posted February 1, 2008 at 5:25pm

On Tuesday night, many Washingtonians will be watching vote returns and celebrating as 24 states hold their primaries and caucuses. But Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will have another reason to celebrate. The senior Senator from Louisiana will be partaking in the Mardi Gras fete.

Landrieu, who lives on Capitol Hill with her husband

and two children, Connor and Mary Shannon, says she will be “down in New Orleans for the weekend attending parades and balls.”

Meanwhile, Landrieu’s office, located on the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Office Building, will remain festooned with green, gold and purple decorations in honor of the Christian holiday that marks the end of Carnival and occurs 47 days before Easter.

“We do it every year,” Landrieu said last week, gesturing to a colorful wreath that hangs just outside her personal office. “Most people have Christmas wreaths, but we have Mardi Gras wreaths and masks.”

Beneath the seasonal decorations, the walls of Landrieu’s office are adorned with photos, awards and reminders of her favorite causes.

The Senator is often called “Military Mary,” a nickname that stems from her deep interest in defense issues and her position as the first female Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Louisiana is home to three military installations, and Landrieu serves as a member of the Senate National Guard and Reserve caucuses.

[IMGCAP(1)]“This was when President Clinton was [in Louisiana] giving a speech on military matters,” she said, pointing to a photo of her speaking as the former president looks on.

Around the corner is what Landrieu calls her “adoption wall.”

“I’m the co-chair of the Adoption Caucus, so we keep all the pictures of children that have been adopted, and that’s very special to me,” she explained, gesturing to photos of herself next to smiling children.

The Senator became involved in the organization upon her arrival in the Senate in 1997. She has since worked to pass the Safe and Stable Families Act, a bill that amended the Social Security Act and authorized funds for adoption and mentoring of children.

Landrieu is not without reminders of the disaster that befell her home state in August 2005. Several black and white photos taken by Landrieu’s brother-in-law, David Spielman, of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina hang in the conference room.

“They’re just some very interesting pictures,” Landrieu said. “You know, we never thought we’d see Humvees coming down Saint Charles Avenue.”

Pointing to a photo that shows several boats damaged and piled on top of each other, she added, “They look like toys, but they’re actually real.”

The conference room also features a large photo of the Gulf Coast showing the area’s oil and gas pipelines. “This is our sort of signature issue, coastal Louisiana,” Landrieu said.

“These are all the pipelines that bring gas to the rest of the country,” she explained, pointing to the dozens of lines snaking off the state’s coast and one lone line that connects to Florida. “As you can see, even though Florida needs a lot of gas, they won’t drill for any right off their coast so we have to drill for it and send it over.”

But atop the reminders of these more serious issues, Landrieu’s office will remain decorated through Mardi Gras, providing a slice of Louisiana culture on Capitol Hill.

“[We’re] ready for Mardi Gras,” Landrieu said. “[We’re] just trying to keep in the spirit.”

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