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.

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.

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.