Business and congressional leaders came together to honor the best among them and raise record scholarship funding during the 30th Annual TFAS Scholarship Dinner on July 17, 2019, at the Fairmont in Washington, D.C.
The annual dinner raised more than $305,000 to support scholarships for highly qualified, ambitious student leaders to attend our transformational TFAS D.C. Summer Programs track on Business + Government Relations. Thanks to this year’s record giving, the annual dinner has now raised more than $6 million toward student scholarships since it was founded 30 years ago.
More than 270 attended the event including business and government affairs professionals, our generous dinner sponsors, TFAS students and their internship supervisors. The evening is a highlight of the summer for the students, giving them the opportunity to meet senators, members of Congress and leaders from the corporate community.
Recognizing Outstanding Leadership
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina received the 2019 TFAS Congressional Leadership Award in recognition of the important role he has played in shaping national public policy, championing free-market principles and his ability to work across the aisle. Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America and past award recipient, presented Scott with the award and commended the senator for his legislative accomplishments since assuming office in 2013. “It would be wrong to call him a rising star in the Senate, because he has already risen,” said Calio.
Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, received the evening’s TFAS Business Leadership Award for her work in the corporate sector to present solutions to societal needs and affect positive change. Past award recipient Matthew R. Shay, president and CEO of National Retail Federation, presented Neely with the award and praised the example she has set during her career. “Susan really exemplifies leadership and understands the important role business plays in shaping public policy in Washington and beyond,” he said.
Scott and Neely both used their time at the podium to speak to the TFAS students in the room about the importance of honorable leadership.
Sen. Scott told students how embracing lessons from his mother and a life-changing mentor allowed him to rise above poverty – and a year of nearly failing high school – to become a U.S. senator.
“Lean in to your failures,” said Scott. “Failing forward is one of the most important keys to my success. I learned my most valuable lessons as I was failing through them.”
After nearly failing high school his freshman year, Scott said he met his mentor, John Moniz, who shared life-changing ideas about business and the free market. Scott says Moniz taught him that you can think your way out of poverty and what can happen when we truly apply ourselves.
“One of the most important lessons that he taught me was that if I would take responsibility for myself, then the most amazing things would be possible,” said Scott.
This way of thinking helped Scott to see life’s obstacles in a new way. “Through pressure and challenges and sometimes even failure, obstacles turn into diamonds,” he said. “Let your life be a diamond – rough at the beginning, but the pressure of life makes you better.”
Neely advised students that leadership sometimes means going against the grain and reminded all attendees that the United States was once a colony that decided to go against the grain to determine its own destiny.
“A new nation conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all are created equally set in motion a process that ultimately led to the system we hold dear – it’s the underpinning of our democracy,” she said.
Neely told students that the checks and balances between the branches of government are baked into our nation’s DNA and there to give a voice to the people and power to the powerless. One of the results of this great system said Neely, is that it’s sometimes difficult to get things accomplished in government. However, she encouraged students to not be discouraged by the gridlock but to instead embrace the chaos, develop an entrepreneurial grit and be problem solvers.
“Please take that spirit, that entrepreneurial drive and use it in service to your country,” she said. “We need your engagement now more than ever because I think we as a country have a lot to look forward to.”
Following the dinner, Neely wrote an article reflecting back on her experiences as an intern and sharing some of the advice that she offered to the students and still uses today to guide her.
Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders
Funds raised by this annual dinner allow student leaders to attend our transformational TFAS D.C. Summer Programs track on Business + Government Relations. Students take courses and earn credit through TFAS academic partner George Mason University; intern for 35-40 hours per week with government affairs offices, trade associations and lobbying firms in the D.C. area; and attend small groups, guest lectures and site briefings throughout the city where they learn from experienced professionals about a career in government affairs.
This summer’s class includes 43 students from 23 states and territories, six countries and more than 40 colleges and universities. During the dinner, students representing the class of 2019 took to the stage to share testimonies of the impact of their summer with TFAS.
“This program has taught me more than I could have ever asked for in a summer,” said Marcus Pasimio ’19, a Berkeley student and intern with MetLife, Inc. “It has shown me that advocacy is not only important to teach and educate lawmakers, but it is so important to make sure that the government protects private interests as well. They’ve shown me that business and politics, especially in a city like D.C., is incredibly reliant upon meaningful and purposeful relationships.”
Rising junior Erik Benson ’19 of Bridgewater State University and an intern for Ebay said his TFAS experience has had a profound impact on his career goals. “The relationships that I have made in such an incredibly short amount of time in this program has greatly impacted not only my career path, but how I view politics and the world,” said Benson. “The networking opportunities that TFAS provides have given me connections and experiences that I would have struggled to find otherwise.”
All of the student testimonial speakers thanked the internship supervisors and dinner sponsors in the room for providing the necessary financial support to make their TFAS experiences possible. Sen. Scott too joined the students in praising the evening’s sponsors for their support of the program and its lessons.
“Thank you for investing in the next generation. You don’t have to do that.” Scott told the crowd. “Too often too few people in the free-market system stand up and beat their chest and say look at me. But the facts are very clear – the greatest economic opportunities presented to the world come through the free market and not government.” Scott went on to say that if the two behemoths of the free market and government can work together to present solutions, great things can happen.
Announcing the Lugar Scholarship Fund
The evening ended with a tribute to two-time TFAS Congressional Scholarship Award recipient, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. In honor of the senator, who passed away in April of this year, TFAS announced the Richard G. Lugar Scholarship Fund to help deserving students become honorable leaders – leaders who make a difference in their communities and throughout the world, just like Sen. Lugar did, by upholding the values necessary to the preservation of a free society. Preference for the scholarship will be given to students from Sen. Lugar’s state of Indiana. You can read more about the new Scholarship Fund at TFAS.org/LugarScholarshipFund.
The TFAS Scholarship Dinner was featured in Politico’s Playbook on Thursday, July 18, featuring attendees who were “spotted” at the event including Sen.Tim Scott and Susan Neely; Rep. Ralph Norman; Juanita Duggan of the National Federation of Independent Business; Tom Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute; Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation; Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers; Nick Calio and Josh Saltzman of Airlines for America; Eric Hoplin of Wells Fargo; Michael Calvo of GlaxoSmithKline; Donna Harman of the American Forest & Paper Association; Kirk Blalock of Fierce Government Relations; Dave Lugar of the Lugar Hellmann Group; and Katherine Lugar of the American Beverage Association.
Visit our TFAS Scholarship Dinner Sponsor page a complete listing of the evening’s generous benefactors.