The Way I See It: Rice students meet reality in Washington, D.C.

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Way I See It
Rice students meet reality
in Washington, D.C.

Special to Rice News

This summer I met a man who was a
helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, carried the nuclear football for
Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, flew Marine One and devoted 25 years
of his life to the U.S. Marine Corps: Congressman and Rice alumnus John Kline ’69.
I even got to shake his hand, thanks to my Rice summer internship.

Brown College senior Philip Tarpley got a front-row seat to a world of politics during his Rice summer internship in Washington, D.C., made possible by Leadership Rice, one of the university’s leadership-development programs.

For the first time, Leadership Rice
gave students the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill. Leadership Rice, one of Rice’s leadership-development
programs, sent senior Tom Boyd, junior Teddy Groedek and me to Washington to
learn how the U.S. government is really run — and to help out, if given the

Our first week on Capitol Hill
forced us to abandon our grandiose illusions of Congress and to face the
reality in Washington. We were shown firsthand that congressional
representatives are only as good as the staff working for them and that every
groundbreaking deal, headline-grabbing political maneuver and political dynamo is
possible only because of the hard work and dedication of a small group of
congressional staffers. As Hill interns, we joined our respective
representatives’ staffs and worked diligently to ensure that our congressional
reps could do their jobs. While our preconceptions of how our summer
experiences would be were dispelled, our eyes were opened to the fascinating,
behind-the-scenes drama that plays out in the halls of Congress every day. Our
daily tasks were far from glamorous. But our work enabled the staff to do their
jobs more effectively and presented us with a front-row seat to a world of
politics rarely seen by tourists.

The experience we were given might
not have been the experience we expected, but in many ways it was the
experience we needed and the best lesson we could have received. Along the way,
Tom and I had the honor of meeting the two Rice alumni in Congress: Rep. Pete
Olson ’85 from Texas and, as mentioned earlier, Kline, a representative from
Minnesota, and we learned that offering Rice students a spot on the Hill is the
best opportunity Rice can give to students interested in politics, history or

Fun fact: Almost every
congressional staffer and deal maker was once an intern in D.C. They spent
their time doing exactly what Tom, Teddy and I spent our summer doing. Now they
make policy, they win medals and they eat dinner at the White House with President
Barack Obama. Who knew?

Don’t believe me? Just ask Olson,
who staffed for Sen. John Cornyn before running for Congress, or Kline, who
served as an aide to Presidents Reagan and Carter before running for Congress.
Better yet, ask Josh Earnest ’97, who staffed for years before recently
becoming special assistant to the president and principal deputy
White House press secretary. Or, if you can’t make it up to Washington, ask
Rice Public Affairs’ Director of Government Relations Cory Kennedy. He spent
years working in D.C. as the legislative director and deputy chief of staff for
Congressman Gibbons and, along with Leadership Rice Director Judy Le and Associate
Director Dustin Peterson, is responsible for placing Tom, Teddy and me in

— Philip Tarpley is a
Brown College senior majoring in political science.


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