What was it like to work in the Reagan White House? Capital Semester students gained a firsthand account from TFAS Grewcock Senior Scholar Dr. Donald Devine. The columnist and author joined students via video chat last week to discuss his role in the Reagan Administration and share advice on establishing a successful career in public service.
If you want to have an effect, if you want to do something, you have to take chances.” – TFAS Grewcock Senior Scholar Dr. Donald Devine
Devine told students that working in Washington illustrated the importance of electing decisive public officials who can react accordingly in the face of challenges.
“If you want to have an effect, if you want to do something, you have to take chances,” Devine said. “That’s why Aristotle predicted that democracies won’t last very long– because [leaders] don’t want to make the tough decisions.”
Dr. Devine served as President Ronald Reagan’s civil service director during the president’s first term in office. During that time, he earned the nickname “Reagan’s terrible swift sword of the civil service” for cutting bureaucrats and reducing billions in spending.
During the discussion, students had the opportunity to share what they enjoyed most about working in Washington and studying with TFAS this semester. Flinders University student Sebastian Davis ’19 interned in the office of Congressman Juan Vargas and shared that he was most fascinated by the inner workings of Capitol Hill.
“It was incredible to see behind the scenes,” Davis said. “Actually seeing all the work that goes behind the legislative process was incredible.”
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Davis and his fellow Capital Semester students are finishing their TFAS semester online. Dr. Devine is one of numerous guest speakers who are hosting virtual discussions, lectures and professional development seminars with students.
Before and after his government service, Devine was an academic, teaching 14 years as associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and for a decade as a professor of Western civilization at Bellevue University. He is a columnist and author of eight books, including “America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution.” Devine served as an advisor to Reagan from 1976 to 1985, to Sen. Bob Dole from 1988–1996 and to Steve Forbes between 1998–2000. To learn more about Dr. Devine’s career and read his published op-eds, visit TFAS.org/Devine.