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044 What is the capital of your state?

44. What is the capital of your state?
Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents should answer that D.C. is not a
state and does not have a capital. Residents of U.S. territories should name the
capital of the territory.]

Each of the fifty states has a capital (or a city where government buildings are and important decisions are made) for its state government. But what about the federal (or national) government? Where is its capital? Our Founding Fathers knew that if they put the federal capital within one state, that state would have more power and prestige (or importance and respect) than all the other states, and that wouldn’t be fair. They had to find a way to have a federal capital that would not favor (or give advantages to) one state more than all the others.

The first capital of the United States was New York City, but this was just a temporary capital, a capital for a short period of time. Our first president, George
Washington, had to find a better place for the capital. In 1791 the capital was moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that time, Philadelphia was the biggest city in the country, so it made sense for the capital to be there. But even this was only temporary and the U.S. government planned to move the capital to a site (or place) on the Potomac River.

In 1800, the U.S. capital officially moved to Washington, DC. DC stands for District (or area) and Columbia, which refers to Christopher Columbus, who was an explorer (or a person looking for new places and things) and was one of the first people to come to North America from Europe. Washington, DC is the country’s capital and a city, but it is not a state. It isn’t in a state, either. Washington, DC was made by taking some lands from Maryland and Virginia, two states that border (or are next to) Washington, DC today.

When Washington, DC was built, the site was very unpleasant. The capital was built on swampland (or very wet earth). The weather was bad and there were many mosquitoes and other insects. But the plan was successful and Washington, DC is still our nation’s capital today. The White House, where the president lives, the Capitol Building, where Congress makes laws, and the Supreme Court, where legal decisions are made, are all in Washington, DC, along with many other federal buildings. There are also many businesses, museums, and monuments (or things built to remember people and things from the past). Many people live in Washington, DC, but because it is not a state, they do not have any representatives who can vote in Congress, since that is reserved (or set aside) for states.


capital – a city where government buildings are and important decisions are made
* The city of Lansing in the capital of Michigan.

prestige – importance and respect
* Medical doctors have a lot of prestige because they are well-paid and their work helps other people.

to favor (someone or something) – to give advantages to someone or something
* Do you favor one of your children more than the others?

temporary – for a short period of time
* We need to find temporary housing when we move to Dallas so that we'll have a few months to look for a home to buy.

site – a place; a location
* That hill is the site of the first school in Wyoming.

district – area; a sub-division of a larger area; a large part or section of a bigger area
* If you live in the Laurelhurst School District, then your children will go to Laurelhurst Elementary School.

to border (something) – to be next to another area
* Nevada borders Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Idaho.

swampland – very wet earth; land with a lot of water in it
* When they went walking through the swampland, they were bitten by a lot of mosquitoes.

monument – a building, statue, or something else that is built to remember an important person or event
* The Washington Monument is supposed to help people remember President George Washington and his achievements.

reserved for (something or someone) – set aside for; arranged for the use of something by a specific person or group of people
* The closest parking space is reserved for the company president.