January 5: Part of the D.C. program is experiencing parts of D.C. Today the American Politics class went to the National Museum of African American History. The history and culture were presented in an interesting and informing way. Also, as the topic of the course is “Government for the People?”, it is important to remember and recognize that the government did not always represent everyone living in the country and how far we have come since.
After returning the the Washington D.C. Center, we met with former congressmen Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Chet Edwards (D-TX). The congressmen spoke about their experiences in Congress, and how they have seen Congress and the country change. A point they seemed to come back to was that, even with all the politics and disagreements, the people in Congress are just that: people. Both men seemed to have great respect for each other and the country. Despite being from different parties they spoke fondly of opportunities they had had to work together. In regards to best representing the people, they both said a number of things can motivate congressional action. Among them being: their constituents, personal values, party leadership, financing, lobbyist ideas and influence, but still stated that, although things can be “complicated”, there are often good intentions. Both acknowledged changes could be made to improve representation, but had different ideas regarding how.
Tonight we also had the opportunity to have dinner with and talk to William & Mary alumni about their careers in D.C. It was interesting to hear from people, who were once where we are, about how they got to where they are now. The D.C. office does an excellent job of finding alumni who want to talk with students, and are very kind and helpful. There were alumni present working in fields relevant to all of the three seminars. Students had the opportunity to talk to each alum designated to their seminar, as well as the other alumni after the dinner.
Allie Thibault ’19
American Politics Seminar