Opportunities for outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about federal policymaking while using their knowledge and analytical skills to address today’s most pressing societal challenges.
2000-01 Congressional Fellow sponsored by the American Dental Association
Working on Capitol Hill can generally be described as a young person’s game, filled with activity and enthusiasm. The hours of committee and personal office staffers are long and punishing, especially when Congress is in session. However, staffers are the writers of legislation, which somehow simultaneously satisfies the constituency of the elected member and the broader issues of public policy. Success is in the details, and when information and expert advice are needed to deal with complex issues—scientific, technological, social, and economic, they come from a variety of sources, like the Congressional Research Service, lobbyists, think tanks, agencies and yes, congressional fellows.
The legislative process would well benefit from congressional fellows who have had the experience in the “real world” in their various professional fields. He or she would also be well-positioned to absorb and appreciate the experience of working on the “Hill.” It can be a golden opportunity which is unprecedented. Despite all the dynamics of Capitol Hill and the political process, a Legislative Branch Fellow’s motto while on Capitol Hill should be, “Carpe Diem!”—Seize the Day! It’s a great chance to see and be a part of the bigger picture of how public policy and federal laws are made and implemented.
Understanding the interaction of different interest groups—the give and take—is a major exercise and learning objective. Going through this learning curve has caused me to redefine the meaning of politics. I am left with the impression that policy making without politics is shallow and politics without policy is even more so. This new sense of appreciation has convinced me that we, as congressional staffers and future leaders, need to be involved in the political process at all levels. Having opposing political views and/or supporting different political parties only adds to the mosaic. This is one concept we must embrace as we move forward. And that’s the bigger picture.