Good morning everyone. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my Capital Semester experience on behalf of the Public Policy students. When asked to do this, my mind immediately started racing – this has been perhaps one of the busiest and most eventful semesters of my undergraduate career. The Fund for American Studies organized a 15-week journey that immersed each and every one of us in Washington’s rich political sphere.
The TFAS mantra – LIVE. LEARN. INTERN. provides a subtle explanation of our D.C. adventure.
I had the pleasure of INTERNING for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Initially unsure of what interning on the Hill would be like, it turned out wonderfully. Working alongside our country’s legislators gave me an honest look at how our legislative branch operates. I was constantly kept on my toes by angry constituents who play their part in our political system. Whether I was opening mail for my senator, which provided support or spewed hatred, or I was researching the impact of chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico, my internship gave me direction and insight which I will certainly utilize upon graduation.
We LEARNED at Georgetown University, a prestigious school with an unrivaled campus. We had the privilege to be educated by three highly accomplished professors, Czarnecki, Samples and Blase. These three professors exposed us to the ideals of libertarianism, the detriment of the bureaucracy and the economic policy of crafty politicians. As a result of our public affairs seminar, we know how Washington really works, the importance of networking, and how to make it in this politically charged city. Because of the constitutional interpretation course, we are officially part of a minute percentage of Americans who hold competency in the U.S. Constitution. And as a result of economics and public policy, we have been exposed to the dangers of the special interest and have dissected the implications of health care.
We LIVED in the nation’s capital, the political epicenter of America, the swamp which was once trudged by our forefathers, the place where election night is comparable to the Super Bowl. Life on Capitol Hill is a cultural and social experience. Whether I was strolling Eastern Market in search of the finest fruits and vegetables, studying on the steps of the Library of Congress or sipping coffee and people watching at Pete’s Diner – I was continually entertained and captivated by this dynamic neighborhood.
Our ideally placed apartments on the Hill represented an academic version of MTV’s Real World. We were exposed to individual personalities from each corner of the country and around the world. Russians and Californians, Chicagoans and Floridians, Middle Easterners and Texans, Europeans and Northerners. It was a diverse group to say the least, but we were all here for the same adventure. Each of us left our home schools for a semester of the unknown. We all took a risk, which we knew would be enlightening and enriching. Every student came to D.C. to better their minds and their character. Regardless of political affiliation, we each developed new beliefs, or solidified old ones.
While this is certainly not the best political or economic time for our country, I will make the firm assertion that each and every Capital Semester student is at an advantage. This semester imparted upon us life skills, knowledge, professional development and friendships that will carry us on our way.
I would like to leave you all with three quotes which I believe define our semester here in Washington.
From the IMF: “In life, to make sausage, you need to grind up a little meat.”
From Professor Samples: “The key to life is not making mistakes, but the ability to walk right through them.”
And from the course Economics and Public Policy: “Taxes are bad, but freedom is definitely great.”