My fear of flying did not prevent my attendance Nov. 17-18 at the Newman Civic Fellows National Conference, hosted by Campus Compact in Boston’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate. To start the conference, I gathered and networked with the other Fellows in the replica of the U.S. Senate chamber. I discovered commonalities with my Newman Fellow peers. I also learned the importance of political empathy, which lets us understand the positions of other people and how these views were formed.
We then moved on to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, where we took part in a series of TED Talks (as well as touring the museum and learning about the Kennedy family). The speakers included Lillian Medville, Mike Dubke and Bob Inglis. Medville is the founder of Your Privilege is Showing card game. The game allows players to discuss privilege and power, and promotes learning about social justice issues.
Dubke was the first White House Director of Communications for President Trump and provided deep insight into working in the White House, offering his views on the challenges and opportunities generated by Trump’s unconventional approach. My favorite speaker was former Congressman Bob Inglis (R, S.C.). He recently lost his bid for re-election due to, he said, his views on climate change and the need to address the issue. Inglis provided his opinion about the changing Republican Party and how he believes President Trump has damaged the party. One quote in particular stuck in in my mind: “If you’re not willing to lose your seat in Congress (for the common good), there’s no reason for you to be there.”
Senator for a Day
The Newman conference concluded with a mock Senate workshop in which the Fellows were sworn in as actual senators. I served as Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa. In this workshop, we attended mock Senate hearings, where we interviewed candidates for potential administration positions (i.e., Secretary of Agriculture). Later, each “senator” met with their respective Democratic and Republican caucuses to draft and then amend a farm bill. From this activity, I learned the importance of compromising with the opposing side and collaborating for the common good.
Reflecting back on what I learned from this conference, I believe that bringing students together from across the nation to learn from each other serves to increase understanding and make us stronger as a whole. The future of our society depends on our ability to create the next generation of leaders. This conference, and the Newman Fellowship in general, gave me great confidence in both my peers as a collective group and in my ability to serve as one of these leaders.