The first stop on a busy day of briefings was the headquarters of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) where Political Director Mike Shields spent over an hour discussing how Republicans won the most recent Congressional election and how he personally got involved in politics. He outlined the role and purpose of NRCC, explaining that it was the political organization of House republicans, and that its mission was to keep Republicans in the majority. He told his personal story of how he first got interested in political activism as a youth growing up in the U.K. where his father was assigned as a NATO employee. The issue was American nuclear weapons are U.S. bases. He said that, “Political issues were our dinner table issues.” Shields attended college in the D.C. and related his personal story of climbing the ladder in politics. He pointed out that at age 41 he is the oldest staffer at the NRCC. There was plenty of Q & A with the SMA students. Notes from the meeting were tweeted by yours truly during the meeting, and can be found by going to the Stennis Institute Web site and clicking on the Twitter “T” on the top right of the page. Also of interest is a Politico article written by Shields entitled, “How the NRCC Won in 2010.”
From there it was on to 101 Constitution Avenue for a media panel discussion led by Rex Buffington of the Stennis Center for Public Service, and featuring Senator Thad Cochran’s Press Secretary Chris Gallegos and Matt Letourneau, Director of Communications and Media at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Each discussed their backgrounds and the challenges facing those who are the public relations personnel of their organizations, especially in the burgeoning age of social media.
The next presenter was Jessica Knight, Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. She is a native of Hattiesburg, and attended Millsaps College where she was the first African-American Homecoming Queen. She provided insight related to fundraising for a political caucus, as well as sharing her background and how she got interested and involved in politics.
By now it was mid-afternoon and time for a ride on the Metro to Foggy Bottom and a visit to The Watergate, where Mississippi State alums Tim and Grace Terpstra hosted the group in their apartment to snacks and a history lesson about the Watergate complex. Dr. Martin Wiseman of MSU, Dr. Tim Terpstra of George Washington University and Dr. Stephen Gordon of Old Dominion University discussed the political implications of the Watergate break-in, and how the surrounding events have influenced the country’s history.
One of the threads running through the day was that each of the presenters told about their journeys from college student to where they are today. The Stennis Montgomery Association members thus gained valuable insight and motivation for their own futures. Looking back on the day, one wonders what it must have taken to put all of this together. Credit for that task goes to SMA President Grace Craig, who coordinated the entire schedule of presenters and other aspects of the trip.
Grace Craig is a senior English major from Jackson, Mississippi. Actively involved as a student, she has served as Mississippi State University Student Association Director of City of Starkville Relations. She interned in Washington, D.C. last summer. She is interested in a career in economic development, preferably in Mississippi.