Tag Archives: Stennis Montgomery Association

Follow me to D.C. – Day 3

(Following the Stennis-Montgomery Association annual trip to Washington, D.C.) – Thursday was another busy day. First on the agenda was a viewing and discussion of the famous desk in Senator Stennis’ office. The following excerpt from then-Senator Joe Biden’s Farewell Speech to the Senate provides elucidation:

Senator Stennis …

“looked at me and said, “Joe, do you remember the first time you came to see me?” And I hadn’t. He said, I asked you. And I told my friend from Mississippi this story before as he walks through the floor about Senator Stennis. I asked — he asked me, “Do you remember?” I said, “No, I don’t.” And he said, “I asked you why you ran for the Senate?” And I said, “Oh I remember.” As a smart young fellow, wouldn’t I? And he looked at me and said — he said “Y’all going to take my office, aren’t you Joe?” And he caressed that table (inaudible) family members — the table he loved so much — he caressed it like it was an animate object. He said, “You’re going to take my office.” and I said, “Yes sir, I am.”

He said, “Well I wanted to tell you then, in 1970, what I’m going to tell you now. He said, “This table here was the flagship of the Confederacy.”

BIDEN: If you read “Masters of the Senate” about Johnson’s term, you’ll see in the middle of the book a picture of the table in my office, with the famous old southern segregationist senators sitting around that table, chaired by Senator Russell. And he said, “This was the flagship of the Confederacy. Every Tuesday we gathered here under Senator Russell’s direction to plan the demise of the civil rights movement, from 1954 to 1968.” He said, “It’s time this table passes from the man who was against civil rights into the hands of a man who was for civil rights.”

And I found it genuinely, without exaggeration, moving. We talked a few more minutes, and I got up and I got to the door, and he turned to me in that wheelchair, Thad, and he said, “One more thing, Joe.” He said, “The civil rights movement did more — more to free the white man than the black man.”

I looked at him, I said, “Mr. Chairman, how’s that?”

And probably Thad will only remember as well as I do, he went like this. He said, “It freed my soul. It freed my soul.”

Students then moved to the Russell Office Building for a lobbyists panel that included representatives from Macon Edwards Company, EADS, Deloitte & Touche and Delta Strategy Group. The message from the lobbyists was that effectiveness in the political and government relations world is built on relationships and trust.

Lunch was served in an elegant 5th floor dining room at the Reserve Officers Association looking out at the Capitol. The view was stunning in spite of the cold drizzle outside. Students were treated to remarks by Seantors Cochran and Wicker and Congressman Gregg Harper. Also at the luncheon were a dozen staff members representing Mississippi’s Congressional delegation.

After lunch the group was led on a special tour of the Capitol by members of the Capitol Historical Society.

The final presenter of the day was Jessica Grounds, Executive Director of Running Start, a nonprofit organization founded to inspire young women and girls to political leadership. Running Start furthers the work begun by the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC). WUFPAC is a national women’s group dedicated to electing young women to political office.

Day 2 in D.C., Post 2

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.”

Next was a chilly walk to the steps of the Capitol for as group photo.  Next to us was Iowa Senator Check Grassley visiting with a group from his state.

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.

Stennis Institute sponsors D.C. trip for MSU students

Twenty-eight (Mississippi State University) students will attend the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama Tuesday through the Stennis Montgomery Association, a bipartisan political group on campus.

Marianna Prather, SMA vice president for community relations, said students with the most points at the end of the semester get to visit Washington, D.C.

“We get various points throughout the semester for different activities we are involved in through the Stennis Montgomery Association,” Prather said.

The Stennis Institute of Government sponsors SMA, she said…

… Besides attending the inauguration, the group will be involved with other activities to get the full experience of Washington, D.C.

Whitney Holliday, SMA president, said the group will be meeting with prominent Mississippi natives that will help them network for the future.

“We will meet with the Mississippi delegation and Mississippi congressmen, along with MSU lobbyists and military leaders,” Holliday said. “We will also be hosting a reception for MSU alumni, so the students on the trip can meet people in the area and network for the future.”

Click here to read the entire article in The Reflector.