Friday, July 24, 2009

damn, forgot the bribes

Five things you need to know about lobbying a senator:

1) Get the aides' names: The person scheduling your meeting — assuming it's not you — probably won't get the names. Best to just wing it and hope the phone-line-strangled receptionist knows what's going on.

2) Dress like a professional: Things may not always be "fashionable" on Capitol Hill, but that doesn't mean people don't appreciate some class. Pull out the three-piece suit for the Atticus-Finch look.

3) Bring a partner (preferably one who knows way more than you do): Lobbying is like making a presentation to a group of people who already know the speech. If those spitfire info classes didn't prepare you for the arena, shut up and let your partner fill in the gaps.

4) Bring business cards: What the heck are those things for, since you keep forgetting them at home!

5) Know your politics: Depending on what you're advocating, people may not be receptive. Usually, however, they will be cordial ... to constituents.


After three sessions of background education and training, I went with a partner to lobby Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, on Monday.

Some background: For my "civic engagement project" here in Washington, I joined a group called Americans for Israel and Palestine, which while not affiliated with The Washington Center, recruit heavily from its ranks. I thought it would be a cool and easy way to take care of the project. In the process, I learned a ton about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ate free Middle-Eastern food at meetings.

The Capitol Hill meeting was definitely a cool experience — getting to see the Hart Senate Office Building, the senator's offices, the hardwood-filled, cabinet-lined offices with leather-upholstered seats. And I feel like I understand the workings of Washington much better.

On my part, it wasn't a stellar performance, but I had a very well-informed partner, whom I give credit for anything of depth during our presentation. I focused on the big — and, of course, less complicated — issues. Still, it feels good to have done something of substance, pressing the flesh and taking the names.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"and that's the way it is." — Walter Cronkite

Rest in peace Walter Cronkite, pioneer of television journalism, most trusted man in America, namesake of my j-school. Not many will argue you did more for American journalism than any figure in history, but don't worry; we'll pick up the torch you lit.

Friday, July 3, 2009

longest day off ever

Washington continuously amazes me with it's never ending list of things to do:

  • The Pentagon
  • Pentagon City
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Union Station
  • Dopunt Cirlce
  • Adams Morgan
It was a long day...

I took off because my academic programing scheduled a tour of The Pentagon. While the ceremonial guard that escorted us through the building were quite impressive looking, the tour didn't actually reveal much of the building. We mainly saw hallways and corridors. We did get to see the inner courtyard, which they claim could fit the entire Capitol Building without touching on either end. Many of these comparisons to other buildings were made: more floor space than the Empire State, longer than the Empire State, more impressive design (apparently it was built without using any steel).

Then, not to waste my extra day off, I decided to tackle the National Gallery of Art, which while being right on the National Mall by the Capitol, is not part of the Smithsonian.

I wandered a few galleries by myself and eventually joined a tour.Particularly in gigantic art galleries (and this one was huge!) I really appreciate the tour guide. Having never taken art history, I wrestle with chronology and terms in art museums all the time. The tour was fantastic, taking the group through Pre-Renaissance, Renaissance, Humanist, Baroque, Impressionist, to Post-Impressionist and the beginning of the 20th century. Most impressive was the only Da Vinci on permanent display in America.
It's important to note, however, that in three hours, I didn't even get through the first floor. I have yet to reach the second floor and an entire second building devoted to 20th-century art and beyond to modern. But all musuems in the area close a 5pm — the reason I never go after work. So I wandered the city a bit, eventually ending up at Union Station.

Later that night, I followed a group of interns to Dupont Circle and into the Adams Morgan district, which holds all the nightlife a college fraternity could ever dream of.