Monday was a fantastic day for the William & Mary Washington Winter Program. Not only did I go home with ten frozen fingers and a bag full of EPA booklets, but also with a new confidence in my journey discovering my own career path.
We started our day by visiting the USAID office where we met alumni and USAID bureaucrats Sarah Glass ’01, Sarah Lane ’01, and Ana Luisa Pinto ’01 who sat down with our class to talk about their careers and the international development field in general. All three worked with private sector involvement in USAID but had different roles including economist, portfolio manager, and senior alliance advisor. I have to say, these were three vibrant ladies. You could tell that each woman had an incredible amount of passion for what they were doing for USAID which was inspiring to see.
After USAID and a long lunch, we went next door to the EPA where we met John Frece ’69 and Matt Dalbey ’87 who work in the EPA’s Smart Growth office. This office helps communities grow in ways that focus on the economic, public health, and environmental factors that are often overlooked during development. Sustainable land use has been an interest of mine since taking a seminar on the topic last school year, and this meeting was a great opportunity to see examples of the public sector’s involvement in the area. I think the Smart Growth program is something that every American city could benefit from if the program was given more resources to pursue more projects. Although this meeting was interesting, I think there was a general consensus in our group that a meeting with regulatory parts of the EPA would have been more relevant to the topic of this class.
Next, we went to the US State Department where we took a tour of the lavish diplomatic relations rooms and met with a panel of Foreign Service William & Mary alumni. During the tour we saw numerous antiques, some that were even owned by former presidents. Although the tour was interesting, I felt like I was back in Colonial Williamsburg. The alumni at the State Department panel really seemed to enjoy their jobs. They gave us advice about pursuing jobs in the Foreign Service which many of my peers found especially helpful. But, Ambassador Janet Sanderson ’77 gave us a more candid look into the pros and cons of working in the State Department at an intimate dinner she joined us for. The ambassador’s stories were remarkable and completely un-sugar-coated, which was refreshing after our previous trip to the State Department.
I believe that Monday was extremely beneficial for every student in the William & Mary Winter Washington Program because we were given career advice that could be applied to any interest. I would say that the most important lesson I learned Monday was that I will never be in complete control of my career path so I must accept that serendipity will take me to the job I am meant to be in if I continue to work hard.
Today was a much different experience. Evans started the day by priming our class with a presentation on financial disparity and the US deficit. Then the Tea Party arrived. I don’t want to get too political on this blog so I will try my best. Sitting on the Tea Party panel was alumnus Jason Torchinsky ’98, a lawyer, and his Tea Party counterparts Phil Kerpen and Ned Ryun. Kerpen is a free-market policy analyst and a frequent guest on Fox News. He was especially interesting to talk to. Although I do not agree with most of his politics, I do respect that he had passionate answers to all of our questions, but my classmates who continued to ask hard questions after witnessing his fire. It was definitely interesting to get an inside look at the Tea Party because it has become such a huge force in today’s politics. After listening to the Tea Party panel, we spoke with two more traditional republicans from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Bill Hoagland gave us an especially informative look into the history of the federal budget and the current state of the American deficit. In his presentation we saw more evidence that most federal spending is in healthcare and welfare for senior citizens, programs that are not losing funds at the expense of programs that invest in our country’s future.
Finally, a Politico defense reporter Austin Wright ’09 came to talk about his job as a journalist. Austin led a conversation about defense spending and the current problems congress has making cuts in military spending. We also discussed the Murray-Ryan deal that will probably be overturned in Congress soon. It seems to me that because of our large military-industrial complex and the large degree of localism in American politics, it is hard for congressmen to cut programs that bring jobs to their districts even if they are economically unsustainable.
I don’t think that these two days could have been more different. Both days were beneficial to my government education but I almost felt a little helpless after today’s focus on what’s so wrong with Washington, which is a stark difference from how I felt after visiting USAID, the EPA and the State Department on Monday. It is clear that this is a really bad time in Washington, but it is also clear that the situation is far from hopeless. Tomorrow we hit Capitol Hill to see where all of the mayhem takes place.