A Passion for Politics: Video Transcript

Oliver Young [senior major in Political Science, Class of 2018]: One of the first weeks I had on campus here, I had a meeting with my advisor, Bryan Marshall, the chair of the poli-sci department, and I asked him what would be a good way to get involved on campus. I'm looking to interact with students who are interested in politics and policy and he recommended the Janus Forum. And I went into one of those first meetings, back in 2015, and there was a rich discussion on the current state of affairs in American politics and foreign affairs, and what was so great about that experience was the club, the Janus Forum itself, in talking about those issues works really hard to check their biases at the door so that we have a constructive dialogue.

So, the steering committee for the weekly meetings would come up with the topics for the forums. So someone would present a topic idea, and everybody would vote on it. My idea was this past spring, where we had former senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte, Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, and then Jonathan Swan, who's a reporter at Axios, the big scoop guy. It was about intra-party wars and the future of the political parties, and subjectively and objectively I think it was the best forum that we've had in my time here, and it was my idea to have this topic.

But I will say that my most, my favorite experience in the Janus Forum might have been meeting James Carville, the "Ragin' Cajun" and campaign manager for Bill Clinton. He was a really funny guy. That forum was hilarious. He would sort of get up and fix his socks on stage while one of the other panelists, Alex Castellanos, who is a Republican communication strategist, was talking, and he got the crowd rip-roaring, clapping, and laughing. He was really great, and in the meeting afterwards he teased me about not wearing a tie. Just a very accessible human being and very funny and very genuine and very much wanted to support kids chasing their passions in politics.

And through that I heard that other students had done this program called Inside Washington, where students from all sorts of backgrounds, from all different majors, were encouraged to apply to a spring semester or summer term trip to Washington, DC to meet with speakers and then also to have an internship that would apply for credit. And I was interested in studying abroad until I found this trip, I found this opportunity, and I applied, and I was there for the inauguration of the Trump administration, I was there for the first 100 days last year, last spring. It was transformative for me. I found that the students that I met in my group will be some of my longtime friends going forward. I met people that have had a profound impact on me just personally.

The best part about Inside Washington I found was, regardless of your politics, regardless of your political affiliation, no matter who you meet they're going to have an impact on you. They're going to tell you something that you didn't pick up previously, they're going to give you advice that you wouldn't have thought of previously. I found that my commitment to making this country a better place was rooted in that Inside Washington experience.

Every day was fascinating, every day was a new day, there was always something to look forward to, to bring to work, to have a conversation with. My internship was with a lobbying firm, small firm with just a few members, a few partners and a couple other interns, and I got to know them very well. I got to know all of their stories very well, and every day was a new day to talk about something.

I focused a lot on various policy initiatives that we're trying to get through Congress, and I would go to committee hearings, I would watch them online, I would transcribe these hearings, I would write up memos about what was going on. I did an email of the meeting of the week. I would say something like, "Hey, there's these two committee hearings on this proposed legislation, and I want a transcription of this one and just a memo on this one."

I think there's very much an "American dreamness" to the Inside Washington program that you get while you're there. The students, everybody goes in really nervous about their place, and feeling inadequate, and feeling like, "Man, there are people that are better, stronger, better connected than I am," but Inside Washington leveled the playing field for everybody. Everybody left feeling like they had a shot at really making change and having a positive, productive career in the realm of politics that helped their passions and didn't deter them. People felt inspired when they left, that they can do great things with that education they had while they were there and the connections they built and the relationships that were really grown because of everyone's commitment to their jobs, their work, and the people around them.

[May 2018]