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Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Karen Czarnecki ’88


This week’s special guest on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast is vice president for outreach for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Karen Czarnecki ’88. Karen is not only a TFAS alumna, but she is also a professor at TFAS. She teaches the internship seminar on public policy and international affairs –  an interactive seminar that examines the practical side of the workplace. In this week’s episode, Roger and Karen discuss how her TFAS experience helped her get a job in the White House, the inner workings of the Department of Labor, her time as Chief of Staff to a member of Congress, and the importance of listening to constructive criticism.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity. 

Roger Ream [00:00:24] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law and the media. Today we have a special guest joining me, Karen Czarnecki, vice president for outreach at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a Fund for American Studies alumna. Karen also is a professor now in The Fund for American Studies programs. Prior to joining Mercatus, she served as director of the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law. Karen has quite an interesting and extensive background. She is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in government and the nonprofit sector. Over the course of her career, she has garnered extensive external affairs and coalition building work by the development of high profile programs and initiatives. Karen received both her B.A. and her J.D. from the Catholic University of America. Karen, welcome to the show.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:01:40] Thanks, Roger. Glad to be with you.  

Roger Ream [00:01:42] I’m especially excited because we do go way back. I think we met not long after you exited a TFAS program as a college student, and our careers have somewhat paralleled each other and crisscrossed and met each other at many conferences over the years. I know this is going to be just really exciting to hear from you about some of the experiences in your career. But maybe we could go kind of back to the beginning, not quite the very beginning for you, but your TFAS experience. You came here in 1988 for a summer program and you interned in the White House, isn’t that right?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:02:18] Yes, I had what you would call a very backwards career. Most people end up in the White House after 20 or 30 years in public policy. And I started out as an intern, a TFAS intern in the White House. So it was a very unique experience.  

Roger Ream [00:02:32] Yeah. And that was the kind of final year of the Reagan administration. Did you ever have the opportunity to meet the president during that internship?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:02:41] I was there for the summer, and the second day of my internship they asked if I would actually want a job through the end of the administration, and I said, “Let’s see if I survive this internship first.” Because working in the White House for some of the folks in the Reagan administration was a very daunting experience. But I survived, and the president came by three different times that we were there. We were working on a special project that is now exhibited at the Reagan Library. Anybody who’s researching the Reagan presidency will see these massive scrapbooks, if you will, detailing the foreign policy and domestic policy achievements of President Reagan. And he came by a couple of times and commented on what he had seen and was recounting stories about the different things that he saw that we were working on. So very exciting. And he’s very tall. He was very tall.  

Roger Ream [00:03:28] Yeah, that’s a wonderful experience to be in the White House as a college student and under the Reagan presidency. Any other things you can recall from that summer experience in D.C. and the program, the courses you took or students you met that left like a more indelible mark on you or a lasting memory?   

Karen Czarnecki [00:03:50] Yes, Professor Viksnins. I had not had a lot of experience with economics before, and he was very rigorous and he joked about it with me years later saying, “Oh, you were one of my favorite students.” I said, “We know that’s not true.” I had to work very hard for that grade, but I learned a lot about economics and it was a different way of thinking about economics. He was a stickler. I mean, you had to really know your material for him. But ever since then, up until now, that was the beginning of my true discovery of economics, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the years. But I will never forget sitting in that class, just – it was nerve wracking.   

Roger Ream [00:04:32] He was great. He taught for us for 34 years and influenced a lot of students, and they all left knowing who Joseph Schumpeter was and the concept of creative destruction. So we were privileged to have someone with us that long.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:04:47] Well, let me tell you a story. While I was in the White House as an intern, I was actually interviewing – or I was asked to be interviewed for a couple of different offices, and I will not name the office that wanted to interview me, but the entire interview was talking about my TFAS classes, and I was grilled on the Laffer Curve and the different theories of economics, and whether it was Schumpeter or others, I had to explain in a 45 minute interview everything I had learned that summer – not usual for an interview, let alone in the White House, but it was very useful.  

Roger Ream [00:05:20] Yeah, well, good Professor Viksnins sent you well prepared. You’ve done other things in public service. You also worked at the Department of Labor in some very high level positions under Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, as I recall. And you were chief of staff to a member of Congress. Let’s start with the Department of Labor. I mean, it’s not a department we hear a lot about, but it has a lot of influence on our economy and the growth of our economy. And it can be certainly a damper on growth. If it gets out of the way, it can help spur growth. But what are your thoughts about bureaucracy having worked at a department like that?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:06:01] It exists, and it’s large, and you have to have the right political leadership in place if you want to set the agenda for the entire agency. It’s a difficult thing to do. I never had any background in labor law before I went there, but I ended up spending eight years working for Secretary Chao, and she had a really dedicated, committed group of individuals who wanted to harness the government for the greater good and for everyday Americans. And it’s a difficult task. The days were long, the experience – it was a very unique experience to work there, too, and I never thought that every single thing the Labor Department does touches all of our lives. If you are going to be retiring at some point in your career, you have a private sector pension, the Labor Department regulates that. If you are talking about, whether it’s climate change or the ESG, which is a big name in the news now – well, if you’re looking at mining operations, the Department of Labor oversees that. If you are an intern and you’re going to be paid a minimum wage, the Labor Department oversees a lot of that. Working conditions: whether you’re in a hazardous situation or not, OSHA – I mean, the Labor Department affects all of our lives. You don’t realize it until you’re – I didn’t realize it until I was working there. I thought, “Wow, this is a very, very important agency.” They’re all unique experiences, but that was a really fantastic time.  

Roger Ream [00:07:23] And now you’re at the Mercatus Center. It’s an organization that has a lot of programs. You take interns from The Fund for American Studies. You’ve hired people- 

Karen Czarnecki [00:07:34] I think one showed up today!  

Roger Ream [00:07:35] Oh, good, good. Yeah, our programs are just getting underway here in early June. But I imagine that you were able to bring experiences from being in the Department of Labor to the work of Mercatus, which deals a lot with the regulatory agencies, right? Tell us a little more about Mercatus.   

Karen Czarnecki [00:07:53] Mercatus is a university-based research center, so it’s a little bit separate from a think tank. We do a lot of research, but the quality of the research has to be such that it needs to be publishable in a peer reviewed academic journal. So most of the individuals that work here and write the research force are Ph.D. economists, or they’re lawyers who have significant experience at the federal level or congressional level working on their issues. And the issues can range from anything from drone delivery, which I know has been in the news most recently. It could be on labor issues such as the gig economy or platform economy, as our researchers like to say. We also have a new international division that looks at the institutions and whether they are meeting the needs of the global economy, like the World Trade Organization, and look at trade issues, supply chain issues. We’re going to be hiring a lot more individuals or commissioning a lot more research on those issues in the coming years.  

Roger Ream [00:08:51] Well, I know we’ve had a number of our graduates who’ve been excited about learning economics from our faculty, and they’ve decided after they’ve graduated from college to come back to George Mason to get their Ph.D.s, because economics is suddenly an exciting field for them, and George Mason is the place they want to do it. We’ve been pleased that some have ended up affiliated with the Mercatus Center, doing work there as Hayek Fellows and in other capacities, so I want to commend you for those graduates of our programs you’ve hired as they go through graduate school.   

Karen Czarnecki [00:09:24] We have seven or more graduate fellowships where people can either get their masters in economics or Ph.D. in economics, and those are fully funded programs at Mercatus. So we invest a lot of time and energy into training the next generation of economists, whether they go to work on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies or even in the private sector. We also have other fellowships where individuals who are studying at different universities but are not economics majors will come here and have different weekends to learn more about the three different schools of economic thought that our researchers are writing about.  

Roger Ream [00:09:58] Well, you came to our program from Pennsylvania, where you grew up. You later had the opportunity to be the chief of staff to a congressman from Pennsylvania. So I’d love to ask you a little bit about Congress and how it functions, or maybe a better way of putting it is the dysfunction of Congress. But talk to me a little bit about what you learned while serving as chief of staff for a member of Congress.   

Karen Czarnecki [00:10:23] Well, what you hear or read about in the newspapers is, quite frankly, true when it talks about dysfunction in Congress. What was shocking to me was how much the different parties really control the agendas of the individual members, notwithstanding the fact that there are 535 members of Congress, and the desire to make change or solve problems is not always at the forefront because, at least what I teach in my class is that the whole goal of a congressman and their staff is to get reelected. It’s this vicious cycle, and it’s really, really true in the behind the scenes and how it operates. I will never forget sitting in a room – I worked for a freshman member of Congress, and Paul Ryan was the speaker at the time, and they were bringing groups of freshmen members of Congress and their chief of staff in to teach them about the budget process – and I had to sit, as all staff do, on the second row, and the congressmen are sitting at the table. And when Paul Ryan asked a rhetorical question, “How do we solve these problems?” I foolishly raised my hand and I said, “I’ve got a few ideas for you.” And the response was, “Who’s that staffer in the back row trying to speak?” I thought, wow. I mean, I did have a few ideas that they could have tried to introduce legislation-  

Roger Ream [00:11:47] Did you get a chance to share them?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:11:49] No, I did not. But my boss said later on, “What was that all about? I thought you knew him.” I said, “I knew him a long time ago.” But, you know, solving problems is not what happens, at least in the House of Representatives. It takes a very long time before any legislation that’s introduced can get passed. You do have to have consensus, but it’s a grueling process. But you want to feel part of the solution when you’re working there.  

Roger Ream [00:12:13] Do you think term limits would help or do you have any ideas for what would help Congress function better? Does it need to reclaim its responsibilities that they’ve kind of ceded to the executive branch?   

Karen Czarnecki [00:12:27] One of the things Congress could do is spend more time on oversight, and not oversight with a political agenda, but really solving the problems. If Social Security is really going to go bankrupt in the next 10 to 20 years, taking a look at the formulas and not just tinkering around the edges, but having solutions that are long lasting would be very, very important to do. But there is no political will on both sides to do that because those are the voters who are oftentimes at the polls, the retirement age. And if you tinker with that, you will probably not get reelected. So it’s challenging. Yet Congress should do more oversight, even though there are no votes in it and there’s no money in it for the reelection campaigns. I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.   

Roger Ream [00:13:10] Well, you now are teaching in The Fund for American Studies programs. You’ve been doing that for a number of years. I shouldn’t say now because it’s been something you’ve generously done. Many of our students have had the opportunity to take your course and and learn about how Washington works and doesn’t work through you, and I know you offer a lot of career advice to the students as well, but could you kind of touch on what the course is about? Because I think that would be of interest to all of us.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:13:38] Sure. I like to call it the behind the scenes of how Washington politics and public policy operate. So everybody can have a government course talking about how a bill becomes a law or how the federal agencies are supposed to work, or how the press relationship with the White House ought to be. And you can read a lot of this, but I like to give a lot of firsthand accounts either that I’ve had or that the people I know in Washington have had to talk about how the belly of the beast, if you’re talking about the bureaucracy, doesn’t really operate the way it should, and is there something that should be done about it? So it’s more of a first person account as to how things really operate, what could be changed, and if you want to survive in Washington politics or public policy, what you need to know. So it is not something you’ll find on a typical college campus.  

Roger Ream [00:14:29] How do students react to it? Do they greet a lot of what you talk to them about with surprise? Because they have this vision of government as something that can solve all our problems. They sometimes often have kind of top down thinking when it comes to solving problems, or is it something they totally relate to right off the bat?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:14:50] It depends on where the students are coming from. Most of them are shocked to hear about the dysfunction across the board at all levels of government. And the most surprising thing to me is when I see them at different TFAS functions years later, usually five years later, they say, “Everything you said was right. I worked on Capitol Hill,” or “I went to work in an administration, and it’s so true how the bureaucracy can try to slow walk progress that a president is trying to make,” or “It’s so true about how the committees should be doing more but haven’t done it.” And it’s kind of funny because I think they’re not really believing a lot of it. They said, “Oh, you’re so negative.” I said, “No, I’m not negative. I’m just giving you the real truth. If you want me to say nice things about how Congress or how the press or anything operate,” I said, “We can have that conversation, but it won’t be the full picture of what happens in Washington, D.C.” So I think it’s very eye opening and it’s made some of them want to go into politics and it’s made others want to stay far, far away from politics and go into finance or other profitable careers.  

Roger Ream [00:15:54] Do you have a sense at all in the years you’ve been teaching as to whether students have changed much, or are they better informed, less informed, especially when it comes to, say, civics, because we hear a lot about growing civic illiteracy? People can’t name the three branches of government, but what do you find with your TFAS students who I assume are somewhat above the average?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:16:17] Yeah, the students have changed and I will say they are a reflection about what’s happening on our university campuses today. The lack of complete understanding of civics and really how the three branches of government operate, I do see that, but it’s not as bad as it could be. The one thing that it really strikes me is that everyone is afraid to speak their mind in classes because they’re afraid of offending someone. They’re self-censoring. Even if they have a point of view. I always say everyone’s opinion is going to be respected, but you need to back up that opinion. You need to tell me why you think you do, and it doesn’t matter if it’s left, right or center, Democrat or Republican. It doesn’t matter to me. But what’s important to me is that you have a rational argument as to why you believe a certain thing. But you also have to be open to other points of view. And I have had many students over the last several years say, “I’ve never had a professor like you, and I’ve never heard this point of view or I’ve never heard a critique of Congress or the federal government.” And I mean, it’s shocking to me, but it’s not surprising.  

Roger Ream [00:17:25] Well, at our orientation at the start of the programs this month, we put a very strong emphasis with the students on that very point, that they should have the courage to speak up, to share an opinion, while at the same time, you know, listening to others who might have a contrary opinion. You know, I’ve heard it said, and I love to quote this to the students, that God designed us beautifully with two ears and one mouth, and he expects us to use them proportionately. So do twice as much listening as you do speaking, and you’ll learn a lot more. I think we have them all ready for this next eight weeks of a transformative experience. You said they’ll be coming to your class. You’ll be kicking off your class soon. And I think, you know, they’re going to understand how privileged they are to be in your class, Karen, and have a professor with that kind of attitude who wants them to share their viewpoints, even if they aren’t maybe popular.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:18:21] Yeah. I really want them to be able to explain where they’re coming from and not be afraid to do so. I think the first class or two, people are afraid to speak. I have to say 25% of your grade is class participation and doing the readings, and they say, “Oh really? I said, “Yes it is, this is a seminar class. You need to speak up.” So it’s good getting them to talk about the different ideas and their observations from their internships and their observations from speaking to their supervisors and from other folks in the program. I really do think it’s a transformative experience, and I don’t think they would get this opportunity at their home universities.  

Roger Ream [00:19:03] Now, when you came to a TFAS program as a student, had you planned at that point to make a career in Washington, or was it something in the program that caused you to do that? I know you were studying here in college, but… 

Karen Czarnecki [00:19:20] I went to school in Washington, D.C., and I was a double major. I was a theater major and a world politics major (it wasn’t called international relations then). Maybe I thought I was going to work for some international organization. Who knows? But I went through the program, and I decided I really liked the political aspect of it. I know I’ve told you this before, that my mother said I went to Washington, D.C., and after all was said and done and I finished up with the TFAS program, I never came home, which is true. I’ve been in Washington, D.C., ever since. So yeah, I really enjoyed myself. The thing that really sticks with me about the programs is all the different lecturers throughout the program, whether it was the ambassadors who came to speak, the government officials, you had a lot of congresswomen and congressmen speak and really hearing from them and being able to chat with them before and after the programs is something you can’t do in very many places. The opportunities were great attending the summer program.  

Roger Ream [00:20:23] I also want to leave time for another topic, which is the leadership advice you might offer or career advice you might offer to young alumni of our program, to students in our program. I know you have a lot because I’ve heard you share it with students before, but let’s talk some about that. What kind of lessons from your career and from the people you know that you think are worth sharing to young people today?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:20:54] I think one of the most important things is to not be afraid to ask questions because it’s certainly a part of learning. If you don’t ask questions, you’re never going to know how another person has experienced something. If they’re 20 years older than you, there’s a lot that they can bring to the table. So not being afraid to ask appropriate questions, I should say, to see a different perspective. I think that’s probably the first thing. Another one would be accepting critical feedback or constructive criticism. The buzzword today is feedback, and that could be good or that could be bad, but learning how to accept that constructive criticism and learning from it and moving on, I think is really important. Not taking it personally that somebody doesn’t like you. It’s not about that. Everyone wants to see their employees or their interns grow and mature and not make the same mistakes that they’ve made. So again, putting those listening ears on it, hearing what they have to say and internalizing that I think is important. This is a tough one. You have to, as an intern, as a young employee, put yourself in the shoes of your employer. I think this is very much a “me” generation with Instagram and Tik Tok – the focus is always the self. But if you want to be a good employee and have a fantastic career trajectory, put yourself in your employer’s shoes. Instead of saying, “What can I get from this job?” It’s “What can I offer them to do the best job I can so that I’ll eventually move on because I’ll have these fabulous references?” So I think those are the three takeaways I would give any young person today.  

Roger Ream [00:22:30] Your first takeaway on asking questions was another theme of our orientation program. We talked about having curiosity, and I happened to listen to another podcast, one of my favorites, Econ Talk by Russ Roberts, former colleague of mine- 

Karen Czarnecki [00:22:48] That’s a good one! 

Roger Ream [00:22:49] He featured the author of a book on his show called “Curiosity.” The author of the book mentioned that as soon as you sit down at a dinner and you introduce yourselves to the people next to you, you know very quickly whether they’re curious people or not just by whether they’re interested in finding out about you and what kinds of questions they ask. And so I think that’s great advice of the importance of asking questions and talking to people about themselves, not just their careers, but what their hobbies are, what their interests are and learning from them. So that’s great. Now you’ve got three daughters of your own, as I recall. They haven’t done the TFAS program, but I’m sure you’ve encouraged them to.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:23:39] Two have!  

Roger Ream [00:23:40] Oh, two have been in the program. Okay, well, I apologize for that. I’ve forgotten that. I know one went to Prague, right?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:23:45] Yes. And then the other one did FTE. 

Roger Ream [00:23:48] One of our high school programs.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:23:50] Yes. Yeah. During COVID remotely.  

Roger Ream [00:23:53] Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well I hope it was a great experience for the two of them.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:23:57] She apparently said she got notified weeks later that she had the highest score on whatever the test was. She was shocked by that.  

Roger Ream [00:24:06] Good! Well we were shocked when we evaluated those programs that had to be done virtually that the students rated them higher than they were rating the ones when we used to do them in person. Now we’re back to doing in person of course, and it’s a much better experience for a student. They had nothing to compare it with, but virtual programs got high marks, so we were very pleased about that. Did it spark a greater interest in economics or did she already have that interest?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:24:32] No, she wanted to see if she was interested in it. She’s decided economics is not for her. She’s interested in engineering. So maybe there’s a connection. I don’t know.  

Roger Ream [00:24:42] Yeah, well, maybe she’ll pursue some economics as well, but they’re engineers.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:24:45] Well, I will tell you she’s more of a rational debater when it comes to everyday conversation, and she’s always giving me the rational arguments. So I’m sure it helped.  

Roger Ream [00:24:55] Well, let me ask you this. Are you, based on this arc of your career, would you consider yourself an optimist about the future of our country? A pessimist? You’ve also, I know, studied a lot, read a lot of history, but what are your thoughts on that? We go through these periods, of course, throughout our history where we have difficult political conflicts, wars that we enter and challenges to meet. But what are your thoughts on where we’re headed?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:25:25] I am an optimist by and large, but I will say, if we are asleep at the switch and we don’t challenge some of what’s happening either at our universities or even ESG proposals, if we sit back and do nothing, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves if we are not as prosperous a country as we have been. So I think we have to be actively engaged and actively having conversations about topics. And challenging notions that are failed as if they’ve been failed in some communist or socialist countries. So I have great optimism, but we must do a really good job of teaching students to learn from history and not believe in a utopian society.  

Roger Ream [00:26:14] A big source of my optimism, Karen, is the students that we encounter in our programs, that you encounter in the classroom, seeing them at our orientation program. We have almost 300 this summer in our five programs, and so many of them came up to me afterwards and expressed genuine gratitude for the opportunity to be in Washington and to have received a scholarship to do the program, to have an internship and all the opportunities before them this summer. I think they’re going to take advantage of them. They’re going to apply themselves in the courses and really, truly be courageous leaders in the future so that is the source of my optimism.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:26:50] Are you taking them to Mt. Vernon? You should be taking them to Mt. Vernon while they’re here.  

Roger Ream [00:26:54] Oh, yes, we do trips to Mt. Vernon. Some will go to the Lincoln Cottage, Monticello for a small group of them we’ll take down to Charlottesville to see Monticello. We have a great program. One of our programs is Leadership + the American presidency, which we do in collaboration with the Ronald Reagan Institute, part of the Reagan Presidential Foundation. And they will look at the leadership styles of quite a few of our presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan. It’s a great program if you have an interest in leadership and an interest in American history, and they’ll go to the Lincoln Cottage and they’ll do all these exciting activities during the course of the summer, and perhaps some will be in your class as well.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:27:42] That’s great. I’m glad to hear that your continuing all those programs, especially since many of these places have now opened up. It’s a wonderful learning experience for them.  

Roger Ream [00:27:50] Yeah, another interesting observation about the program is we’ve had a slight falloff in the last few years of students interested in the journalism program, journalism and communications. And I think that I know some universities, at least one or two, have closed their journalism schools. I think journalism has become a much different profession than it was 20, 30 years ago. It’s become more, as our colleague Richard Benedetto says, the students who come to our journalism program now are just overly political. They’re only interested in promoting a political agenda, much less interested in being reporters who chase the facts. Have you noticed that difference in some of those students who are in the journalism program?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:28:39] I haven’t noticed it, but I leave most of the commentary on the press corps to Professor Benedetto. But what is surprising to the students is that he has such a long history working in the White House press corps, USA Today, I believe, for 25 years. And he has seen it all. I think he has four decades of experience, and when he is critical of the press for not doing their job, not reporting on the news, instead of being the talking heads, they’re surprised because he has not transformed like the journalism profession has transformed. I think they learn a lot from him, but I don’t think they’re expecting it.  

Roger Ream [00:29:17] Yeah, he wrote a story for the very first edition of USA Today covering the White House. And until he retired not too many years ago, he was covering presidents. He really has seen a change in the way the press corps, especially the so-called mainstream press, covers politics, covers the president. It’s been a real change, which has surprised a lot of us with the great burst of media outlets, of social media, of cable channels. It seemed like maybe the competition would drive us toward a point where we had a less biased media, but instead it divided into two camps, and you probably see that in your work. Do you feel like the Mercatus Center gets fair coverage from the media for – is that part of your job, getting press coverage for…?  

Karen Czarnecki [00:30:10] No, thank goodness. I’m all about promoting the policies and the research to audiences who should use it. But I will say we don’t just work with right of center audiences. We’ve got an urbanity program, urban economics, talking about land use and zoning reforms. And that’s when the Democrats and people left of center actually – we have better conversations with them. So my whole goal is to find common ground with anybody with our research. If we can advance proper, well thought of ideas that might be actionable. And I think we’ve seen a lot of activity in the States based upon our research, and I’m very happy to say that. So I essentially do the external affairs and government relations, so we’re working with policymakers, whether they’re elected or whether they’re in different coalition groups around the country.  

Roger Ream [00:31:00] Yeah. You have done a lot of work in the States in your career. Is that the place where the action is now? 

Karen Czarnecki [00:31:08] Yes, yes, yes, yes. It has been for quite some time. It’s easier to approach state lawmakers. They more readily answer your phone calls or your emails. They don’t have a lot of staff. They are looking for good, reliable research. They don’t want to be embarrassed by any of it. And things move much more quickly at the state level. So that’s where I think a lot of national organizations are trying to do more work in the States. I think the stalemate in Congress with the polarization of the two parties, whether they’re going super right or super left, has made working with Congress much more difficult.  

Roger Ream [00:31:47] Yeah. Well, they are laboratories of democracy in the 50 states. I think it’s a positive trend if we can see more experimentation at the state level. And of course, with this leaked Supreme Court decision affecting the issue of abortion, that may very soon get pushed out to states as well. It’ll be a bigger battleground than ever before. But it’s good to see the kind of work you’re doing, having an impact at state level. Well, thank you very much, Karen, for being our guest today. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for the teaching you do for us on behalf of all our students. We’re really, really appreciative of that. We take great pride in the work of our alumni. And you’re someone right at the top of that list in terms of the impact you’ve had in your career all through your public service, your educational work, nonprofit work, and in your friendship to our organization. I failed to mention in your introduction you serve on our Board of Regents, have chaired our Board of Regents, so we’re grateful for your work as a volunteer for The Fund for American Studies as well.  

Karen Czarnecki [00:32:56] Oh, it’s my pleasure. I love working with everybody at TFAS.  

Roger Ream [00:33:05] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host, Roger Ream. And until next time, show courage in things large and small.  


About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


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