Lights, Camera, Convention!

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There is much controversy over the idea of whether or not the national political conventions should be considered a political informative convention or rather a production for TV. There is no doubt that the pomp and circumstance play a big role in modern American politics so it is only appropriate that the Washington Center invite convention producer Ricky Kirshner to speak to the students.

The production aspect of putting on a national political convention is often overlooked. In order to have national press coverage of such an event, crews are setting up weeks before to transform an ordinary arena into a masterpiece of lights, cameras and television screens. Even if watching the setup for an hour or two, the progress of transformation is significant. Coming from a stage production background, I could appreciate the technical nature of Kirshner’s job.

Kirshner shared some very valuable insight on how he has run his production process which we can carry into all other job and leadership opportunities in the future. Kirshner shared that a leader in a production company has to pick good workers whom he trusts, then “allow them to do their job.” He illustrated this concept by sharing an instance during a Super Bowl halftime show he had worked on in which the lighting technician hadn’t checked in over the headset. Trusting in his worker, he did not go searching for him, but instead went on with the show. As it turns out, that worker had been doing his job, and had gone above and beyond to hold two cables together in the pouring rain to make sure that the show went off smoothly. In this case, as in life, sometimes it is best to just let others do their job.

-Katie Proch

Get Active America!

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Coming to Charlotte for the 2012 Democratic National Convention has been an overwhelming and rewarding experience for me. Because my educational focus is on International Studies, I did not feel as prepared to discuss all domestic issues, however, one experience did stand out to me. As we were taking a tour of Uptown Charlotte, where the Convention would be held, there was a gay rights parade taking place as well as protestors in the streets. It was clear we were going to see a lot more people speaking out on their various issues in the coming weeks. After speaking informally with one of the guest speakers, Aaron Brown, professor of journalism at Arizona State University, he noted that many political leaders fall under the “white male” category because that was the population of voters who were most reliable to turn out to the polls. In that moment it dawned on me. We aren’t misrepresented simply because this is the part of the population with the most money and therefore all the power (although often this is true). We are handing the election to this population simply because the remainder the population does not consistently vote in all elections, including the presidential election. It is not a secret that many Americans find issues with both presidential candidates and therefore choose not to vote at all. I think the best way to make sure our leaders represent the diversity of the American population is for all eligible voters to take advantage of that right and give them a voice. Minorities and young adults will no longer be referred to as fair weather voters, but instead will be a part of the population which leaders will have to pay attention to 100% of the time, not just when they choose to show up to the voting booths.

-Katie Proch

The Democratic National Convention

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I arrived at the Democratic National Convention around 2:30 on Saturday. While waiting to catch a cab I met a very nice young man who was also part of the Washington Center. We decided to split the cab and head to the hotel. The staff at the hotel was incredibly friendly. After we dropped off all of our bags we decided that we would wander around Charlotte for a little while. Charlotte is a very nice little city. It is small enough that we can walk around it no problem. We arrived back at the hotel around 5 and decided to change and head to dinner. While on the way out we ran into a group of eight or nine students who were all part of the Washington Center. We ended up going to dinner with these people. It was awesome to meet new people from all over the country. My roommate is from Texas and the young man I met earlier was from Boston. Everyone was so excited for the convention to start. It’s such a cool feeling to be around so many students with such a passion for politics.

Tampa Bay Times Forum

Tampa Bay Times Forum

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I have successfully completed four days of The Washington Center’s 2012 Republican National Convention Academic Seminar! The actual RNC does not officially kick-off until Monday so delegates will not start invading the Tampa Bay area until this weekend. Nevertheless during the “academic pre-game” The Washington Center has put on during the past four days a lot has been going on. Our official scheduled programming begins promptly at 8:45 a.m. each morning. Here all 144 students and 18 additional faculty leaders pile into the performing arts building on the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus and begin our day listening to lectures put on by selected speakers from The Washington Center. The short list includes former CNN anchorman Arron Brown, Congressman Mickey Edwards, Dr. Michael Genovese and Scholar on the presidency from Hofstra Meena Bose.

Today was super exciting. Two days ago the GOP revealed the stage inside of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Then today The Washington Center got to take a tour of the entire building including an up close look at the stage were Governor John Kasich, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney and others will all be speaking in just a few short days. The Tampa Bay Times Forum underwent a $40 million, privately funded renovation for this convention. I am looking forward to seeing the Forum again on Monday when it is ready for the eyes of 35 million people. Political conventions are the second most watched televised event in the world (just three million viewers behind the Olympics). When put into perspective, it is easy to see just how important this renovation is. Spending the afternoon at the Forum was a great experience. I can only imagine what it will be like in the upcoming days when its 19,000 seats are filled with the best of the GOP.

Hoping This Train Doesn’t Break Down

Hoping This Train Doesn’t Break Down

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I’ve been lax on these posts (very lax), and I know everyone’s been waiting with bated breath, so here it is.

These past several weeks have been incredible, and D.C. has opened up to me in many different (and almost indescribable) ways. I’ll begin with a few entertaining notes before I move into the deeper, nonetheless interesting, notes about my internship and the program in general.

First, some of you may have heard of the terrorist plot that was thwarted last month by the FBI. Here’s the skinny: A diluted Moroccan man in his 30s planned to wear a suicide vest into the Capitol. Unfortunately, for him, the men who he was getting the explosives off of were undercover agents and instead gave him inactive explosive materials. While I was up in the office with my coworkers we noticed some commotion. Turns out, they thwarted the plot directly underneath us in our parking garage. Myself, being a sucker for the cameras, went outside along with a co-worker to the alleyway to poke around. The reporter approached us and put the microphone in our faces and started asking a series of questions. I didn’t really have anything insightful to say other than “Yeah a fellow co-worker got back from a hearing and told us he couldn’t get through the alley and I heard the commotion, looked out my window and came outside.”

(notice the stellar secret service-esque shades)

Of course once you get a taste of the spotlight, you get hooked, and you can’t get enough of it. One day while walking to work, yet another reporter stopped my friend and me. This time, the subject matter was less intense. He began by saying “Hello, I’m from London and we are doing a story on the current Prime Minister who is visiting. Could you guys tell me who the current prime minister is?” I faltered, but, quick on my feet, I decided to throw my friend under the bus and told him he can answer that (turns out he didn’t know either). When he told us it was David Cameron, we acted like we knew that (we kind of did). We brought up the phone hacking scandal much to his dismay, I’m sure. I should have been suspicious when he approached us with one of those big furry microphones. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll be shown on the London airways as uninformed, isolated, self-concerned Americans (much like when we are shown videos of Americans who can’t answer simple questions like: “Who is the current VP?”) … oh well.

Now that I have everyone hooked to thinking I’m a celebrity, I’ll move on to my internship and the experiences that have evolved from it.

Most notable was a dinner we were fortunate enough to attend called “Cockroaches.” Such a title deserves an explanation, I know. Basically, there are two variations to the story. The first goes something like this – If a nuclear attack occurs, those that survive will come crawling back out, ready to establish a new colony, or, in the case of DC, a new city, a new government and a new national order. The other tells a less ominous story – Once the current administration is ousted (or has reached its term limits) then those who survive the turnover, once again, come crawling back out from the wood-work and ready to reorganize. But the dinner itself was great and presented an amazing opportunity for us interns to network with some pretty high-ranking folks. Most notably I got to meet the Director of Intelligence, James Clapper. In his speech after dinner he even went out of his way to give us a shout-out, which was really neat. I also got to meet Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MI), a ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. He was extraordinary friendly and offered us some great advice.

I’m quite sure that my experience here has been – above all – invaluable. Hence, I never want it to end, this train must go on. It can’t break down. It’s a ride of a lifetime and it  does not compare to anything else I have previously done in terms of my professional career. The city is enchanting, the lifestyle is ideal for the young and the fearless, and the friends and colleagues you pick up along the way adds even that much more value.

A Quick Look into the Problem-Solving Capabilities of Congress

A Quick Look into the Problem-Solving Capabilities of Congress

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Problem: The U.S. is facing an increased number of cyber-attacks, which originate primarily from China and Russia. Not only are private businesses being targeted for proprietary information, but the federal government is a target as well. A major cyber-attack on the U.S. has the potential to cripple economic and military capabilities nationwide and could result in mass deaths, evacuations or a catastrophic national security breach.

Solution: Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is sponsoring the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would create government jurisdiction over key infrastructure systems (such as the power grid and water supply) and develop cybersecurity performance requirements for any system categorized as critical infrastructure.

Problem: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is leading a campaign and proposing new legislation to oppose the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would, as currently written, designate regulatory power to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). McCain, wanting regulatory authority to go to the National Security Administration (NSA), will not support the current bill, and may succeed in preventing it from passing into law this year. This means that another year will pass without a bolstering of federal cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure will be more vulnerable than ever to cyber-attacks.

Solution: ???

Problem: This type of opposition is not uncommon. Partisan debate is a natural product in creating policy, and is foundationally beneficial for creating laws that balance the interests of different groups. Such an argument becomes irrelevant, however, in this case, due to a number of factors that should be considered.

First: Sen. McCain has a history of agreeing with Sen. Lieberman (who is a stingy conservative on security issues) on cybersecurity issues, as they are both proponents of a strong national defense.

Second: The basis of disagreement is over semantics. Does is really matter which executive agency governs cybersecurity issues? The reality is that Sen. McCain, being born into a renowned military family and having an extensive and decorated career in the armed services as well, is likely to have an unspoken allegiance towards military-run agencies (the NSA would be included in that category, DHS would not).

Third: This bill is too important not to be passed into law. As previously stated, the high vulnerability of critical systems that support the United States is a monumental threat to national security. Should a landmark cybersecurity bill be halted, and possibly stopped, due to the personal political loyalties of a few senators? Even if there were highly credible criticisms of the bill (which there are), the partisan differences need to be reconciled quickly, because neither the public nor private sectors can afford for the bill to fail.

Bottom Line: The abysmal Congressional practice of maintaining one’s “electability” and obliging to personal loyalties should never come in front of making good decisions for the country. But it does… Maybe that’s why Congressional approval is at 10%. Maybe that’s why most people have a passionate hatred of politics. Maybe that’s why China is catching up to us as a superpower at record-pace.

Whatever the reason may be, the partisan politics and disagreements need to stop. There’s too much good that can be done in this country, only to waste our government time and resources on issues that can be reconciled. The specific senators mentioned in this post have worked together on several related issues. It’s time for them to step up to the plate and do it again.

Stand On The Right…Walk (Run) On The Left

Stand On The Right…Walk (Run) On The Left

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Fortunately, I received some good advice from some folks familiar with Washington D.C. My friend who did the same program I’m doing (The Washington Center) gave me a plethora of great information and then, right before I was departing for my stay, she texted me and told me she almost forgot to tell me the most important thing: “Stand on the right, and walk on the left. If you don’t, you’ll get shoved.” What? Are you kidding me? This is that critical? What she was referring to was the escaltors in the DC metros. She was the first to tell me…followed by about a dozen others. This highlights the lifestyle of DC, which is fast-paced and aggressive. Of course, I took her advice.

So, I’m two and half weeks into my experience here in the District of Columbia and I must say that it is a totally different experience than I have ever had before for various reasons. Within this short amount of time, I have learned more than I ever have…baptism by fire is certainly the right phrase to insert here. At my internship site, I am asked to do weekly reports that we send out to our clients on energy from a policy/budget, technology and industrial aspect. Without much further explanation, I took to it or, I should say, more fittingly, I flailed my way through it. That hasn’t even been the most challenging thing yet.

Next, I was asked to anaylze Big Data Analytics for another client of ours. Don’t ask how I began to work my way through this, but I did. Apart from sounding really ”cool” telling people you’re doing Big Data Analytics, there is a lot of practicality to it. Basically, I read a breadth of information on unstructured data and how software programs are able to make sense of this by structuring it. From my understanding this seems quite practical in terms of marketing and even our current healthcare system…if fully implemented.

The days are certainly long, yet very eventful and very busy. My firm allows us to attend conferences and congressional hearings. A lot of what we do deals with national defense and security so, naturally, the conferences and hearings we attend deal exclusively with this. It’s an amazing learning experience and I didn’t know I could learn so much within such a short amount of time. In one of the congressional hearings I attended I sat about 40 feet away from Michelle Bachmann (whether or not this was desirable I won’t say here…but it was certainly surreal to be vis-a-vis with a former presidential candidate). This hearing was held by the Intelligence Committee and the topic was “World Wide Threats.” Among the topics they highlighted, they touched primarily on cyber threats and Iranian threats. It was twice reiterated that we will be “facing an immanent and catastrophic cyber attack.” Even writing this sends chills down my spine. Likewise, on the topic of Iran, I can’t help but feel slightly insecure considering how close I am to the potential target. It’s safe to say that the current administration is not resting much with this threat weighing quite heavily on their minds.

When I’m not swamped with my duties and obligations with class, work or programming, I like to do some exploring. One day, my friend and I went on a jog … our destination: The White House. It was my first time standing in front of this amazing place richly filled with history and wonderment (yes, I know, it’s quite pathetic that I have never been to D.C. until now. Of course, like any other middle school, mine went on a field trip but I wasn’t able to go…that’s a different story, however). I couldn’t help but stare like any other tourist and be held in awe, not quite being able to grasp exactly what I was seeing.

(I repeatedly had my friend reassure me I wouldn’t get shot for taking this. I didn’t, evidently)

I’m still feeling my way around this city, especially that cumbersome metro system. But, in all honesty, there isn’t a whole lot to adjust to. Like anything else, you just get used to it, go with it and flow it. With a dash of confidence and a little aggression when need be it’s truly an amazing experience. The only danger, apart from getting trampled on while riding the escalators, is falling in love with this city and never returning to the place whence you came from.

Week #1 – The Budget Control Act and its Profound Impact on my Life

Week #1 – The Budget Control Act and its Profound Impact on my Life

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Washington has been a unique and exciting experience thus far. The generic expectations of life such as work and academics are only the foundation of what has been a broad experiential process this past week. Filling in the gaps between these pillars are opportunities that weren’t apparent or expected. I spent my Thursday attending networking and informational events on Capitol Hill as well as across the Potomac. These events, both focusing on national security and the new defense budget, immersed me into the atmosphere of my internship. They also provided me with an excellent opportunity to network with professionals in the industry I will be interning in, making them invaluable experiences. I have found the prospects of this city to be nearly endless.

This new city has a large set of “unwritten rules” that are ritually followed by its citizens. Escalator etiquette (walkers on the left, standers on the right) is the most prevalent of these traditions, being demonstrably vital to surviving in the city. The local influence of widespread professionalism dominates the atmosphere of Washington, and always demands cordiality and professional demeanor. Fortunately, my internship does not abide by a strict set of rules. If I have nothing to do in the office, I am encouraged to leave and take advantage of what the city has to offer. This is awesome and it encourages me to make the most out of my experience, whether that is in the office, at a conference or just out exploring the city.

I am a research analyst (that’s the name they give interns, I think it’s pretty cool!) for the Potomac Advocates. A significant amount of responsibility is placed upon the other interns and I for a variety of tasks. As a defense consulting firm, my office sends out several reports to clientele with information regarding various topics in defense. My primary responsibility for the current time being is to create one of these reports weekly, specifically on cyber security. I also work directly with one of the partners on tasks involving a specific client of his, and I imagine that I will be used to perform whatever miscellaneous tasks are needed to aid the partners with their work. My favorite responsibility involves being a courier for the firm, taking documents to the Senate and House office buildings on a regular basis!

Washington, DC runs on a different wavelength than the rest of the world. While the general public thrives on sports, music and keeping up with the Kardashians, the culture of Washington centers around a different, more refined nucleus. This past Tuesday, I was bewildered to discover that President Obama’s State of the Union Address was the Capitol’s equivalent of the layman’s Super Bowl, filling every bar and restaurant in the city with animated and charismatic viewers. Washington’s inherent bond to politics and government is perhaps the city’s most defining trait, and is what separates it from any other city on earth.

This has had a significant impact on my stay in Washington. Working for a defense consulting firm, I have been submerged into the political atmosphere of DC quicker than I would have ever expected. Only two days after the State of the Union Address, the interns in the office were summoned for another big event. Due to the Budget Control Act passed by Congress, the Department of Defense was mandated to cut almost $500
billion from the defense budget over the next decade. This has huge implications on defense contractors, who will be scrambling to determine how it will affect their business with the government.  A very long story made short – the Budget
Control Act will dictate almost every action that I take for the next 13 weeks of my internship! I think that’s pretty cool, and am very excited to see how my firm, as well as the entire Washington community, embraces this new situation.

The Road to Washington

The Road to Washington

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As a man who was born and raised in a suburb of Cleveland, I have had the opportunity to experience (nearly) everything Northeast Ohio has to offer. I have swum in the hazardous waters of Lake Erie, attended the famed St. Patrick’s Day parade and enjoyed the theatrical and cosmetic brilliance of a production at Playhouse Square. I have felt the pride that manifests intrinsically within every Clevelander and felt that same pride get mangled and scarred as a certain basketball star (I have vowed to refrain from saying his name in 2012 as a New Year’s resolution) took his talents to South Beach. Through the good and the bad, I have been with this awesome community for my entire life.

As I approached my final semester in college, the prospect of a new chapter in my life led me to make a difficult decision. I have chosen to spend my last 4 months in the nations capital to intern in a program called The Washington Center. During this time, I will be working for a consulting firm and getting a good taste of the “real world.” It is an excellent opportunity to explore a career path that is known for it’s fast-paced and high-pressure environment.

When people ask me why I decided to go on this journey, the answer I give them is reaffirmed constantly by what we see in the media. The best example is the republican debate just a few days before the South Carolina primary elections. Witnessing grown men attacking the character and integrity of other grown men on national television illustrates that there is something very wrong with how we choose our nation’s leaders. It is my goal to DO GOOD in the world and to change the hostile atmosphere of politics, one person at a time.

I am writing this post on the road to Washington. All my belongings are sitting next to me, as I begin a new and exciting experience in my life. This blog will help chronicle some of my adventures in D.C., and I’ll probably throw some fun stuff in too. I hope you enjoy reading these entries as much as I will enjoy writing them!

I will certainly miss my friends, family, dear old Mount Union, my awesome girlfriend of almost three years and my beloved Cleveland sports, but I am confident that this is a risk worth taking. There is, as with many things, opportunity to fail, but that will only make success that much sweeter if obtained. Anyone who has taken Finance 101 will know that “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.” It’s about time for me and every ambitious reader out there to prove that saying true.

Anticipation and The District

Anticipation and The District

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Most students started the semester January 9, but I won’t be starting mine until January 23. That’s right, my break is two weeks longer. However, and unfortunately, this extension has not been as great as I had expected.

(Is the moon really that much bigger in DC?)

I’ll be traveling to our Nation’s Capitol to begin my semester as I’ll be participating in a program most of you may have heard about before, The Washington Center (TWC). Through TWC, I’ll be interning with my friend and colleague (and fellow classmate at Mount), Ben Hartwell. Our internship will be through a leading lobbying firm located on Capitol Hill called the Potomac Advocates. This firm deals with national defense and security, and works through some familiar branches such as Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, CIA and NASA. I’ll also be taking a class once a week called Road to the White House: Politics, Media, and the American Presidency. I’m particularly excited about this because it’s a partnership with C-SPAN, which I’m sure most of you watch on a daily basis. We’ll have exclusive access to interviews with candidates and some of the other big players on the campaign trail. I’ll also be on C-SPAN repping Mount Union and TWC … so stay tuned. Considering the political climate during election season in which I’ll be face-to-face with, I can’t imagine having a dull moment being so close and involved with the campaign as it develops and takes shape around me.

With all this impending excitement, I’m also getting very anxious. And since my break is extended, that only means that I’ll have two more weeks to sit around in quiet contemplation about my forthcoming experience, two more weeks to try and find things to do to fill my time (mostly unsuccessful) and two more weeks to procrastinate all the things I need to be doing in preparation. In other words, I’m a bit nervous about taking on the big city though. But at the same time, I’m very excited and couldn’t imagine not doing it. In fact, I’m very thankful that I am able to have this opportunity and even more thankful for those who have helped me along the way. Among those who have been instrumental in this process are those at the Ralph and Mary Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement, Office of Career Development (this office is a must for any post-graduate career), my professors and of course, my family. This is definitely not a one-man-show and I couldn’t possibly do it without the help and encouragement of others.

By sharing my experiences through this blog I hope to accomplish primarily two things. The first is to highlight the usefulness of the resources available to us on campus and the many different paths to which it can lead. If anyone is at all interested in public service or civic engagement, then your first stop should be to the Regula Center. Even if your career goals involve the private sector, this office still remains useful. Hence, my internship meshes both the private and public sector together. Lastly, I hope that by sharing my experiences it will genuinely excite others to pursue their own career goals by taking a crucial step forward – even if this involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone … as the rewards will far outweigh costs.