Once again a new crop of Jackson Fellows has taken Washington, DC by storm, meeting with seven members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation – including individual meetings with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell – and a slew of other useful organizations and individuals relevant to the Jackson Foundation and the Jackson legacy.
With a packed agenda and a cohort of Fellows that included a new mom (Arianna) and her 2-month daughter who nearly stole the show, the Fellows showed why they had been chosen in the first place to represent the Jackson brand.
Individually and collectively, they are a passionate, idealistic, pragmatic, committed, and determined bunch. They asked tough questions and charmed their audiences.One particular audience that benefited from the Fellows’ unique ability to inspire others and challenge dusty conventions was at the Woodrow Wilson Center. There, each of the Fellows spoke for a few minutes to a crowd of over 70 young Washington, DC interns – some of whom barely in their first few days on the job — about navigating public service careers amid exceptional obstacles like the kind they might face today. One Fellow, Stephen Robinson, exhorted the interns to “get outside of yourself” and think about the larger whole of society. Christina Sciabarra, who is used to counseling college students in her post at a major community college outside of Seattle, advised them: “If a door is not open – open it.”
Others, including Arianna Muirow, spoke of the importance of time and patience: “Trust your route, even if it is circuitous.” And Danielle Granatt agreed, arguing that “a career is not a straight line.” Brandon Hersey also emphasized that “being able to pivot in your career” is essential in today’s world. All of the Fellows had profound observations that resonated with the young crowd. They then paired up and led small group discussions that were really an opportunity for the interns to get their own questions answered, and they did not disappoint.
In addition to the public event at Wilson, the Fellows were treated to a high-level briefing on climate change and national security (a priority of the Jackson Foundation) by General Ron Keys at the Center for Naval Analyses. They also met with a new Foundation grantee, Steven Olikara of the Millennial Action Project, who has created an impressive bipartisan network facilitating legislative changes at the state and national level by working with young elected officials.
This year, for the third year, the Fellows also met with Mike Evans, the Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, who is an old colleague of Foundation Board members from Jackson days. Mike has become a mandatory meeting for each cohort for his unusual perspective on how the sausage is made within the Senate these days on the key subjects of health care, trade, social security, and taxes, among many other topics within the committee’s jurisdiction. He spoke movingly about the importance of “civil partisanship,” what he called “a lost art” on Capitol Hill, and lamented the erosion of norms which had, in earlier days, contributed to consensus and progress. He is always a hit with the Fellows and like others we met with, was in turn inspired by their energy and intelligence.
Finally we landed at the Van Ness Feldman law firm, founded by the late President of the Board, Bill Van Ness. Sitting in the Jackson board room at the firm and listening to how Jackson’s values were still informing that law firm was a fitting end to the three-day agenda.
The Fellows also benefited greatly by the presence of three board members who took the time to travel with the group: Vice presidents Craig Gannett and Linda Mason Wilgis, and Board member Chuck Blumenfeld, who serves as the board advisor on the Fellows’ alumni council.
All in all, we exhausted ourselves but I think it’s fair to say that from our perspective, spending time with this extraordinary group of young people is a very energizing experience, one of the most exciting aspects of the Jackson Foundation’s work today.