Friday, July 25, 2008

But that was when I ruled the world

So Tuesday all the U of M interns got together and met with our Senator, Carl Levin. We got together in the Armed Services Committee room, took a group pic with the Senator, and then had a Q & A session with him. He talked about what he loves about his job, had a lot of encouraging words and advice for us, especially with regards to public service, and he also made a great pitch for staying in Michigan after college (which I thoroughly enjoyed). T'was a grand affair; my personal highlight was giving up my seat for him for the pic. Yes, even I can be nice and help a Senator out every now and then.

Once we finished our little meeting with Senator Levin, I ran into Senator Wicker and we had a nice lil' chat. Love that guy. Afterwards I walked down the hall to the Russell Building atrium to look at an exhibit of Patrick Leahy photos (which I'll ellaborate on later). As I was in the atrium I saw Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who's a baller and Ranking Republican on the bad-ass Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Upon seeing just a high-roller, I nautrally went up to him, introduced myself, and started chatting with him (he liked that I worked at the NRSC, where he used to be chairman). Real cool guy and great Senator (Time Magazine called him one of the ten best).

So now let me explain this exhibit in the atrium. Senator Patrick Leahy is the senior Senator from Vermont and Chairman of the Senatre Judicary Committee (he also has a cameo in The Dark Knight, in which he plays the old man who stands up to the Joker at Bruce Wayne's fundraiser for Harvey Dent). He, like myself, takes his camera EVERYWHERE. This exhibit showcased some of his favorite/coolest pics. He had some with the Dalai Lama, with Bono, in private meetings with world leaders, Supreme Court Justices as the await confirmation, backstage at a Greatful Dead concert, and, my personal favorites, pictures he took standing over Presidents as they sign bills into law. The guy's seen so much history and so many cool things in his life, it's ridiculous. I hope to one day be as well traveled as Leahy.

So after meeting Lugar I decided to stick around and look at these pics, because they truely are amazing. As I'm looking at them, a massive crowd enters the atrium and then a voice comes over some speakers...the voice of Patrick Leahy. He's standing at the center of the atrium, he thanks everyone for attending, introduces the probably ten Senators who are there, and then starts talking about all of his pics. This was probably one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed. First off, I have no idea if I was supposed to be there or not, but I was like "fuck it," because what will they acutally have done to me if they had caught me being there when I wasn't supposed to? Would they have fired me from my unpaid, non-Senate job? Would they have escorted me out of this public building? Anyways, so this exhibit was cool because Leahy had so many cool stories to tell about his pics. It was like hearing an artist talk about his art at an exhibit opening (which this essentially was). He talked about his meetings with these world leaders, hanging out with Jerry Garcia, sneaking ice cream to Fidel Castro...AMAZING. Also as cool, I found myself rubbing shoulders with Senators again. Once minute I'm standing in front of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next I'm next to Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi (also one of Time's Ten Best). So cool.

Once Leahy finishes his little talk, the crowd disperses to admire these works, and I do the same. As I'm walking around, Senators Ken Salazar of Colorado and Harry Reid of Nevada (the Senate Majority Leader) walked in right next to me. I glad-handed Senator Salazar, we chatted for bit, then I tried saying hi to Reid, but he just patted my conversation took place. Strike one, Senator. As I continued looking around the exhibit, I notice Leahy, Salazar, and Chris Dodd huddled together laughing. This was a really cool sight, and, in a picture taking mood after seeing this exhibit, I decided I'd ask to take a pic of the three of them in that pose. I don't think Leahy really got what I was asking of them, because after I asked they broke huddle and stood together normally for the pic. Whatev, it's a pretty sweet pic, in my opinion.

After this pic, I went around the room again looking at more pics. Ran into Debbie Stabenow and did the whole "Do you remember me? blah, blah, blah" chat. Don't think she remembers me too well. After I saw Leahy and Reid talking in a corner and I thought that it would be a really cool candid pic:
I call this one "Power Players." It looks like they're discussing some important bill or strategy. Once they broke I caught Leahy and complemented him on his pics and such, then told him I liked his line in Dark Knight, which he laughed at. Good times. Interestingly, I ran into him the next day at the spot showing his pics to an aide and he let me listen in as he talked. Real cool. It was like getting private tour of history.

Couple other highlights from the rest of the week:
I met Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday morning as I walked into work. He was also going to the building and I held the door open for him. Kinda cool?

Norm Coleman is quickly moving up on my list of favorite Senators. He at our building making calls today and he heard me phone banking for him, once again. He came up, thanked me, shook my hand, and then we chatted for about ten minutes about his career and public service. It was really cool. Real down-to-earth guy. Plus, how many Senators/high ranking officials take time to talk to interns about life? Norm Coleman, your stock is rising in my book.

Adding Levin, Lugar, Leahy, Salazar, and McConnell to my list, I've met twenty- four Senators in D.C. this summer! Include John McCain, whose hand I shook at a rally in May, I've met twenty-five U.S. Senators...1/4 of the Senate!

On another note, Brady, Mike Bouts and I went up to the Tigers/Orioles game last Saturday night, the first time I've seen my boys play on the road. Our seats were AMAZING, we were in the outfield box, two rows behind the third base line. The funny part, there we almost more Tigers fans than Orioles fans at the game. There were plenty of "Let's Go Tigers!" chants during the game. Here's a pic of us from our seats:
We went to batting practice and were real close to the pitchers warming up (Jones, Rodney, and Dolsi). A little farther away in the outfield was my Tiger Justin Verlander. Seizing the opportunity to talk to my boy, I ran a different section and shouted "HEY JUSTIN! YOU'RE MY TIGER!" He turned, smiled, and acknowelged, and I almost died right there.

Here's how close we got to the pitchers:
And here's my Tiger:
If only the game could have been as exciting. The Tigers took a 6-0 lead at the top of the first, only to blow it and fall behind 8-6, before coming back to take a 10-8 lead, then lose in extra innings 11-10. Granted, the umps blew a few calls (including one where they called Polanco out at home when he was clearly safe), but that doesn't excuse the fact that the Tigers blew a huge lead. Sigh. We've got a few more games left.

So that's my update from D.C. Somehow next week is my last week here... Gotta make it count!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God Bless America

There's something to be said about celebrating America's birthday in our nation's capital. To walk around this hallowed city, as many great Americans once did, in the shadow of our sacred landmarks, on our nation's birthday is quite the euphoric experience. All this culminates with fireworks on the National Mall. Nothing screams America like seeing fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial! I love America! Happy birthday, America!

While on the topic of D.C., here's my list of things I love about D.C. (still a work in progress). First, I love the landmarks and monuments in this city. They're gorgeous both in how they look and what they represent. I love walking around the city and admiring all the cool buildings, though it's difficult to navigate around all the tourists. Freaking tourists...let me enjoy my monuments in peace and without you taking pictures of every angle of Lincoln (yes, I'm talking to you, Asian tourists). Brady came down a few weeks ago and we took some time to visit the sites and I was reminded of how glorious these monuments/landmarks are and what they represent. It's so great to stand in front of Lincoln, the man who kept our Union together, read his speeches and admire his giant statue, then look across the Reflecting Pool to see the Washington Monument on the other side. Amazing. There's only one view I love seeing more in this city and that's the Capitol Building. Every time I walk past the Capitol I can't help but take a few seconds marvel at it and appreciate the grandeur of its architechture (especially the Dome) and reflect upon what the building represents. I could stare at the Capitol for hours (I talked about doing that once in an earlier post).

Along these lines, another thing I love about D.C. is running through the city. My favorite route takes me along the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Mall, Capitol and White House. Probably the most scenic route I've ever run. It's like an impromptu tour of the city. I feel like a powerful D.C. insider whenever I'm out for a run along that route, especially when I'm around tourists who have no idea how to get around the city.

Next, the National Portrait Gallery is my new favorite D.C. museum (sorry Air and Space). I love this museum because it has portraits and biographies of our nation's greatest men and women. It's great to stand in awe of these figures who did so much to make our nation great. The museum has portraits of some of our widely known heroes (the Presidents, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger), as well as some Americans who aren't as widely celebrated (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, ect.). All these heroes have made some sort of tremendous impact on the American experience and have defined what it means to be an American. I felt my ego deflate as I saw some of these people and, for probably the first and only time, it felt good.

Another cool place I recently visited is the National Zoo. My favorite attraction was, of course, the giant pandas. Sadly, they weren't doing anything fun. They were being lame sleeping in their pavilions, thus making panda cuddling impossible. Sorry Vitz.


Now on to the Senate front!

Work has definitely picked up, I'm working on a really cool project that involves researching potential donors. I have very little downtime now because they've given me a massive list to research. It's actually a lot of fun and it's taught me a lot about campaign fundraising.

I've been adding to my list of Senator run-ins. Last week I went to a reception at Michigan's own Debbie Stabenow's office. We had an interesting conversation, especially when she asked me where I worked in D.C. Seeing as how the NRSC pretty much completely works against Debbie, I was hesitant to answer honestly. In the end, I sucked it up and told her where I worked, to which she replied, "Oh, well, we won't hold that against you!" then proceeded to quickly end the conversation and move on to take the mandatory Senator-constituent picture. Awwkkwarrdd!

The next day, as I was leaving my office, I ran into an infamous Senator now commonly referred to as "Big John." For those of you who haven't seen Senator John Cornyn's "Big John" video (which I included on my last post), click here. So anyways, he was walking out of the building and I was about to cross the street, but I decided to detour and introduce myself. We had a nice chat about his upcoming election, what I'm doing here in D.C., and, of course, the "Big John" ad. He's definitely enjoyed the publicity the ad's given him, and I'm sure he gets a good laugh out of it. Afterwards I snapped a pic with him:

A few minutes after seeing Big John, I ran into Senator Chuck Hagel! Here's some backstory: PSIP has assigned each of us "mentors," Michigan-alums who work here in D.C. who have volunteered to impart their wisdom upon us. My mentor, Paul, is Senator Hagel's Legislative Director. That pretty much makes him a baller and someone I might be in a few years. Anyways, I'm walking to a reception after seeing Senator Cornyn and I saw Paul walking outside the Capitol with someone who looked familiar who I quickly recognized as Senator Hagel! It was a very quick encounter, they were in a rush to what I think was a VFW meeting. The run-in pretty comprised of me quickly say hi to Paul and then waving/quicking shaking hands with the Senator as they walked to their meeting. Either way, I'm going to count that.

So adding Stabenow, Cornyn, and Hagel to my list, my count is now up to nineteen! The list is Graham, Dodd, Snowe, Ensign, Cochran, DeMint, Isakson, Thune, Wicker, Barrasso, Murkowski, Coburn, Burr, Coleman, Smith, Hatch (He had lunch with our department a few weeks ago, funny man. I like him.), Stabenow, Cornyn and Hagel. Nineteen down, eighty-one to go!

That's all for now. Somehow I've got less than three weeks left here in D.C... WEIRD!