The End of the House Page Program

On August 8, 2011, the House Page era came to a close. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California jointly announced the decision to end the program, citing the manner in which technology had made paging obsolete and the ongoing costs of maintaining the program. “We have great appreciation for the unique role that Pages have played in the history and traditions of the House of Representatives,” Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi said. “This decision was not easy, but it is necessary due to the prohibitive cost of the program and advances in technology that have rendered most Page-provided services no longer essential to the smooth functioning of the House.” They cited the findings of a report the House had commissioned to study the Page program: Pages’ traditional support role had been “diminished” in recent years, even as the cost of maintaining the Page program exceeded tuition at elite boarding schools and the vast majority of colleges and universities.103

Pages Raise and Lower the U.S. Flag/tiles/non-collection/9/9end_raising_flag.xml Image courtesy of the Office of the Clerk, 2006, U.S. House of Representatives The practice of Pages raising and lowering the U.S. flag began as one of the jobs of the “documentarian Pages,” senior Pages given legislative responsibilities. When the House was in session, documentarian Pages raised the U.S. flag over the House side to indicate the body was in session.
Reaction to the closure of the House Page program varied. Former Pages, who valued its experiential component, publicly criticized the decision: How better to inspire a future generation of leaders than to continue to employ young people to assist with the legislative process? In announcing their decision, House Leaders had pledged to “work with Members of the House to carry on the tradition of engaging young people in the work of Congress,” and one Member who had served as a Page introduced a resolution to start a modified program that might accomplish that goal. Many others seemed to accept the news as part and parcel of the significant belt-tightening occurring in Member and committee offices across Capitol Hill as the country slowly recovered from the steep economic recession of 2008 and 2009.

Despite the diversity of opinions about the program’s end, though, it remained clear that in looking toward an uncertain future, the House might still find inspiration in the story of the young people—from all walks of life and all corners of the nation—who once ran its many hallways and contributed to the institution’s rich heritage as “the People’s House.”

Footnotes

103“Statement by Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi on the House Page Program,” 8 August 2011, http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/statement-speaker-boehner-democratic-leader-pelosi-house-page-program (accessed October 5, 2011); Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “House Shuts Down Its Page Program,” 8 August 2011, New York Times: 9; Molly K. Hooper, “House Leaders End Page Program,” 8 August 2011, The Hill: n.p.