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Public Policy Fellows Discuss America’s First Freedoms at Winter Retreat


This spring, the TFAS Public Policy Fellows are engaging in conversations on energy policy, criminal justice reform and principles of freedom as they continue the year-long academic and networking program in Washington, D.C.

In February, the cohort participated in the apex event of the season: “First in our Hearts: America’s First Freedoms,” a winter retreat at TFAS Headquarters. On Feb. 10, the participants spent the day strengthening their leadership and communication skills while debating topics central to the fundamental ideas of America’s founding.

Long-time friend and TFAS guest speaker Dr. Molly Whalen, creativity connector at Leadership Outfitters, opened the day with a workshop on communication and behavior styles. Whalen led the fellows in thoughtful exercises on how to work and communicate in a variety of environments while assessing their own communication styles.

Zach Barnes (ICPES 14) shares his thoughts during the winter retreat.

TFAS alumnus and congressional legislative assistant Zach Barnes (ICEPS 14) was one fellow who benefitted from Whalen’s workshop. He shared that the session helped him more clearly understand communication dynamics in his personal and professional life.

“Molly Whalen’s workshop was phenomenal,” Barnes said. “We learned about the ways we communicate to improve our relationships and how we engage with other people.”

After evaluating their communications styles, the fellows put what they learned into practice.  The group spent the second half of the retreat in fruitful conversations on freedom of religion, freedom of speech and how those freedoms can be jeopardized in today’s society.

TFAS President Roger Ream (ICPES 76); Jennifer Bryson, director of the Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team at the Religious Freedom Institute; and current TFAS Robert Novak Journalism Fellow Robby Soave (Novak 17), associate editor for Reason.com, served as discussion leaders for the afternoon sessions.

Barnes explained that these discussions reminded him of the blessings of freedom, and how Americans are fortunate to have opportunities to discuss these crucial ideas.

“It’s important for young people to talk about America’s first freedoms because we forget how good we have it in this country,” he said. “That was my big take away: we are blessed to be in this country to have the opportunity to discuss ideas.”

It’s important for young people to talk about America’s first freedoms because we forget how good we have it in this country.” – Zach Barnes (ICPES 14)

TFAS alumna Ryan Elizabeth Cinney (CSS 13) echoed the notion that the open-debate style of the program was vital in discussing principles of freedom and learning from one another.

Discussion leader Robby Soave (Novak 17) and fellow Danielle Hamel (IBGA 12) discuss the importance of freedom of speech at the retreat.

“It’s important to discuss these ideas because we’re all Americans coming from different walks of life,” she said. “Hearing new ideas could shift or confirm our perspective of what we already believe in.” 

Cinney also shared that the retreat discussions – and the fellowship as a whole – is an excellent supplement to her TFAS student experience that has allowed her to continue to understand the unifying values of American democracy.

“The ideas that TFAS teaches are just as important for us today as they will be 20 years from now,” Cinney said. “It’s important that people our age stress that and carry that on as we grow and become stronger in our careers.”

The ideas that TFAS teaches are just as important for us today as they will be 20 years from now.” – Ryan Elizabeth Cinney (CSS 13)

Throughout the 2017-18 academic year, the TFAS Public Policy Fellows have participated in a monthly guest lecture series and networking events allowing them to foster alumni relationships, build leadership skills and understand crucial topics impacting society. The 2017-18 fellowship will conclude on May 5 with a closing ceremony featuring a keynote speech on constitutionalism by TFAS board of visitors member Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute.

Learn more about the Public Policy Fellows program and meet the 2017-18 class.


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