Thursday January 8th was a very busy and important day for the U.S. Politics class. In the morning we met with Representative Rob Wittman, who serves for the First Congressional District of Virginia, alumni who work on the Hill in a variety of different jobs, and in the afternoon we met with Senator Kaine.
Meeting Representative Wittman was great because not only does he serve the Williamsburg district, but he also knew a lot about congressional happenings in general since he has been the representative for his district for four years and worked in government for twenty years. The meeting went longer than expected because he was willing, able, and happy to answer any questions and address any concerns the students had. In fact, he ended up staying well over his designated time slot, which resulted in him running late to his next meeting. For us students, this factor was huge because it really exemplified how much he cared about our meeting. Our discussion ranged from current political international events and policy (ISIS, Syria, NATO) to national issues (immigration, climate change, and the undeniable change that the Republican Party is going through.) Something that really impressed me about Rep. Wittman was his impressive educational background. He majored in Biology at Virginia Tech, received an MPH in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina, and a Ph.D in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. Most congressmen do not hold doctorate degrees, because it is certainly not required. However, from our meeting with Rep. Wittman I could tell that he was very knowledgeable about an array of topics because he clearly cares a lot about education and took his very seriously. Right after our meeting with Rep. Wittman, we had a career panel of five young adults who work on the Hill in an array of fields. They talked to us about what each of their jobs entails, how they ended up on the Hill, what an average day-to-day looked like for them, and advice on how to sell ourselves for internships and jobs on the Hill (and DC in general.) Overall, the morning was extremely packed with so much information and advice, and I ended up leaving for lunch with seven pages of notes!
After lunch, we walked over to the Senate side of the Hill where we met with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Elected in the Senate in 2012, Senator Kaine had less experience on the Hill than Rep. Wittman, but no one would ever guess because he is one of just twenty Americans who have been selected to represent his community as a Mayor, Governor and United States Senator. Clearly, he knows a great deal about government workings and the political arena. He currently serves on the Armed Services, Budget, and Foreign Relations Committees, so he had a lot of insight about many current political hot topics on the Hill. The best thing about meeting with Senator Kaine was his humble demeanor and attitude which made our meeting with him so much less intimating for the class, and he happily welcomed any questions. It was interesting to hear some students ask the same questions they asked Rep. Wittman earlier and noting the differences in agendas and political beliefs. When heading home after our meeting, the class was buzzing with conversation about our day on the Hill and all the new things we learned.