On February 15, TFAS celebrated the accomplishments of 16 graduates of its 2010 TFAS Leadership Fellows program and welcomed a new class for 2011 at a reception held at TFAS Headquarters. This year-long networking and educational program, which was first held in 2007, is designed to develop young leaders with a shared commitment to helping improve public policy.
At the reception, 2010 fellow Bryan Wood (B 06) gave a testimonial on his experience with the program.
I am honored to speak on behalf of my friends in the outgoing TFAS Leadership Fellows class of 2010 and excited to welcome in the class of 2011. My name is Bryan Wood and I attended the Institute on Business and Government Affairs in 2006.
I was like most college students and had little direction for my ambitions at the time. But coming to Washington and taking part in the IBGA program peaked my interest in working in government. I always had a deep appreciation for politics, and my internship at the Aerospace Industries Association gave me the opportunity to attend hearings and markups weekly.
After the summer, I knew I wanted to pursue a career on Capitol Hill and have been fortunate enough to be working there for almost four years. I can only imagine the number of similar stories that TFAS has facilitated since its inception.
Since coming back to town after college, I’ve always been impressed with how committed TFAS is to its alumni. If you want to be active, I don’t think there is an organization in Washington that provides more opportunities and incentives for you to do so. Outside of the multitude of intellectual and social events, TFAS is incredibly generous in making its network of students, alumni and friends available to everyone.
I firmly believe that the Leadership Fellows program is the pinnacle of the many opportunities that TFAS provides. On top of the incredible speakers and interesting discussion materials, we have had the opportunity to travel to Civil War battlefields, learn the strengths of America’s most successful businesses, dive into Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and unpack the historic 2010 election. A dinner at the Ritz Carlton keynoted by Charles Krauthammer wasn’t too shabby either.
But the true greatness of the program rests in the participants that it is able to attract and the staff who brings us all together. During our winter retreat, I was amazed by the broad range of interests and expertise as each member of the class presented their background. We have fellows who were behind the scenes during the health care bill negotiations, who travel the world to help stabilize nations, who advocate for human rights, who ensure that government agencies are being run efficiently, and even fellows who serve their home country here in America. Hearing about my classmates’ professional and personal experiences far overshadowed the allure of free food and drinks, which for a Hill staffer is saying something.
With this diversity of interest, you can imagine that there were certainly a few differences of opinion and spirited discussions. While the challenges to each other’s views were tough, they were fair, and the tone was never coarse or personal. Our class was a microcosm for the civility and discourse that we have heard so much about in the wake of the tragedies in Tucson. We certainly do not agree on some points, but we are united by the great deal of respect we have for one another.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the successes of our class outside of the fellows program in 2010. Two members of our class got engaged and one of those recently married. Another bought a house, though you’d have to ask his wife if his priorities were in order when he missed the move to attend our fall retreat. Another fellow even made a cameo on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in her running tights.
To the new fellows class, to say I’m a little envious of the position you’re in is an understatement. I know my classmates would say be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities that the program will provide you. This especially pertains to your winter retreat in Gettysburg. I can firmly say that outside of pledging a fraternity I don’t think I have experienced a quicker bonding between people. Since there is only one IBGA alumna in your class, I would look to her to be the catalyst for that bonding.
Be active in the discussions throughout the year and don’t be afraid to speak up. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from your classmates and vice-versa. Don’t just limit yourself to getting to know your classmates during fellows sessions, as you have probably already learned that most everything in Washington gets done after 5. I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this point, since I was able to get a great girlfriend out of the fellows program.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my classmates. I hope this last year has been as rewarding for you as it has been for me. I look forward to many more opportunities for intellectual discussions and the happy hours that help stimulate them.
In closing, we have all experienced how leadership and education are at the heart of TFAS. Though we have outgrown the “INTERN” tenet of the motto, TFAS still provides us plenty of opportunities to “LIVE” and “LEARN.” The TFAS Leadership Fellows program has given so much to our class, and I can’t thank TFAS enough for the time and resources it has invested in our development. I know each of us will strive to live up to the charge of TFAS: to educate students about the principles and values upon which this great nation was founded.