U.S. Department of State
International Visitor Leadership Program
Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
Washington, District of Columbia, is located where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet, between the states of Maryland and Virginia. The population of the city today is approximately 706,000.
Washington serves as the capital of the United States, but it is not part of any state. Named for George Washington and Christopher Columbus, the city was created as the seat of the federal government by an act of Congress in 1790. Pierre L’Enfant, a French soldier and engineer, laid out the plans for the federal city with boulevards and open spaces inspired by L’Enfant’s hometown, Paris. The city suffered a major setback during the War of 1812, when British troops entered Washington and burned the public buildings. The District of Columbia renewed itself after the fires, growing slowly but steadily.
The city was administered by Congress until 1974, when “home rule,” or government by an elected mayor and city council, was granted. The residents of the District are represented in Congress by a non-voting delegate who may take part in hearings, floor debate, and other functions of Congress. Under the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, D.C. residents’ votes are represented in the Electoral College that elects the President. However, because it is not a state, the District does not have a vote in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
The Washington D.C. metro area enjoys all four seasons but wide variations in temperatures are common in the transition seasons of fall and spring. The summers are hot and humid, with feels-like temperatures in the 90s degrees Fahrenheit range (32 to 37 degrees Celsius) for long stretches, and winter temperatures can dip below the freezing mark.
Washington D.C.’s major business is national and international politics. The leading private industry is tourism, with eighteen to nineteen million visitors coming to the city every year.
Washington is also a major educational and research center with many colleges and universities; the list includes, Georgetown University, the George Washington University, Howard University, American University, the Catholic University of America, the University of the District of Columbia, and Gallaudet University, a renowned university for the deaf. In addition, many political, economic, and medical research institutes are located in Washington.
The U.S. capital attracts millions of visitors each year due to the numerous museums and other historical attractions. The National Mall, located between Constitution and Independence Avenues, forms the axis of the city, with the United States Capitol Building and the Supreme Court at the east end and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. The Smithsonian Institution’s museums border the Mall to the north and south. The White House, the Washington Monument, the National Archives (which exhibits the original U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence), and numerous other memorials are located on or near the National Mall. Many federal agencies also have buildings in the area.
Washington, DC program
Meridian International Center
Senior Program Officer
Senior Program Associate