Following 15 fast-paced weeks in the nation’s capital, 21 young leaders joined the nearly 17,000-strong TFAS Alumni Network with a Closing Ceremony on Dec. 7. During the transformational semester, the students took upper-level courses in economics, leadership and public policy; interned at the city’s top think tanks, trade associations, public relations firms and news organizations; and witnessed a behind-the-scenes view of Washington, D.C. through site briefings, tours and guest lectures.
During the ceremony, keynote speaker and director of digital design for NASCAR, Michael Sales, reflected on his path to success by sharing historic stories of success through “failure,” including one from his most cherished family history: a simple story of his grandmother’s willingness to give generously to her neighbors while living in poverty. He used this example and others to stress that everyone should always have humility and empathy in their hearts, no matter their current circumstances.
I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes; I realized that your failures are actually what shape you as a leader.” – Michael Sales
In addition to the vital life lessons, Sales praised the TFAS graduates for their accomplishments throughout the semester and looked ahead to their bright futures.
“[TFAS] is a prestigious organization, you are now part of a group that has been recognized by Forbes magazine for its contributions…Remember that you are well positioned to do great things,” he said.
TFAS students Margaret Roberts (LTAP-F 17) and Jon Cantalini (CSF 17), both undergraduate students at Seattle University, represented their classmates with testimonial remarks of their life-changing semester with TFAS. The two were first introduced to TFAS by John Dogero (CSS 06, IIPES 06), an MBA candidate at their alma mater and two-time TFAS alumnus, who encouraged the young leaders to apply for the program.
During her remarks, Roberts reflected on her time with the Leadership and the American Presidency, a TFAS program held in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. Roberts explained that the TFAS experience allowed her to have a “home in D.C.” and reflected on the important lessons she learned from her TFAS courses and time living in Washington.
“TFAS Professors Karen Czarnecki and Richard Benedetto have taught us how to view politics through an analytically-informed lens,” Roberts said.
Roberts also shared that her interactions with her classmates – both inside and outside of the TFAS classroom – taught her how to navigate and engage in civilized political discourse on a number of important issues facing the world. She praised TFAS for providing her with this unique experience while simultaneously doing something she cherishes – studying politics.
I have been involved with many programs and organizations throughout my undergraduate career, but they pale in comparison to how proud I am to call myself a TFAS and LTAP alumna.” – Margaret Roberts (LTAP-F 17)
Cantalini represented the Capital Semester program, sharing the exciting once-in-a-lifetime details of his semester in Washington that he was able to experience because of the TFAS program and his internship with the Republican Attorneys General Association.
“For me, this semester has felt like a dream,” Cantalini said. “I have seen and shaken the hands of Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman John Lewis, First Lady Melania Trump, Governor Rick Scott, Kellyanne Conway, Carly Fiorina and a lot of Attorneys General…I have gotten to tour the State Department, the British Embassy, the White House and Monticello.”
Cantalini also thanked his TFAS professors, peers and staff and declared that he was now proud to call himself a TFAS alumnus.
Since 1967, The Fund for American Studies has changed lives and changed the world. I am truly honored to be inducted into this great community of TFAS alumni.” – Jon Cantalini (CSF 17)
Following their remarks, Cantalini and Roberts led their entire TFAS class in surprising faculty and program staff with heartfelt words and thank-you gifts to express their appreciation of the team’s dedication throughout the semester.
The ceremony also featured a final economics lesson to the students and guests from TFAS professor Dr. Anne Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute of Faith Works and Economics.
Bradley explained the wildly simple phenomenon of economics that free markets allow us to access some of the most basic products we encounter on a daily basis, without actually producing them ourselves, and shared the important ways the “economic way of thinking” can lead to ways to expand opportunities for those most in need.
We have the luxury of taking economics and how it benefits our every day lives for granted…I hope that economics can empower you to make the world a better place.” – Dr. Anne Bradley
Before concluding the ceremony, TFAS honored long-time internship partner, kglobal, as the Outstanding Internship Site for their dedication to TFAS students who have worked as interns in their offices for many years.
Congratulations to our 2017 fall semester graduates and to the following new alumni who received awards for their outstanding academic and leadership achievements:
Erick Jenkins (LTAP-F 17), Academic Excellence in Economics and Reagan Foundation’s Eureka Award for Academic Excellence
Quint Doan (CSF 17), Academic Excellence in Constitutional Studies
Vanja Dolapcev (AIPES 13, CSF 17), Academic Excellence in Media Studies
Patrick McGarry (CSF 17), Academic Excellence in Public Policy
Cole Gray (CSF 17), TFAS Outstanding Student Award
Cory Ott (LTAP-F 17), Reagan Foundation’s Gipper Award
To view more photos from the Closing Ceremony and the entire fall semester, view the gallery below and visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TFASorg.