Betty Takes DC: Day 4

Christine Lagarde, National Treasure, and more…

Day 4 (Tuesday)

Secretary Shaun Donovan: Housing and Urban Development

Madame Christine Lagarde: Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

Senator Carl Levin: Michigan

Associate Attorney General Tony West

David Ferriero: Archivist of the United States

Senator Bob Corker: Tennessee


This breakfast started out with a bang with a member of the president’s cabinet. I was very impressed with Donovan’s story of perseverance on the road to discovering his true calling. In additional to his personal narrative, I found his remarks on gentrification interesting. He said that gentrification is a good problem to have, which I agree with whole-heartedly, and gave a few ways to prevent the exclusion of former residents into newly gentrified areas. Donavon’s advice to us was that we should follow our passions; build relationships with our teachers outside of the classroom, and to not give up on public service.

The highlight for the day came for me with Lagarde. Her presence as she entered the room with 104 giddy high schools immediately silenced us without introduction, a feat even Justice Scalia had failed to accomplish. Lagarde’s opening remarks were on how she got to her position today, for which she thanked the love she received growing up, having an international focus throughout her life, and the ability to transform her life for every challenge. In our ventures in life, she asked us continuously question ourselves with “Why?” and “Why not?” the latter being described as the epitome of Americans. Outside of general life advice, Lagarde explained the IMF to us. She was the epitome of class through out her presentation, with her thoughtful answers and tidbits of advice.

Over lunch I had the good fortune of sitting with Major Bahde, an Army lawyer, who is in love with Kansas and Kansas City. Coming from the east coast, Bahde was station at Ft. Riley and then Ft. Leavenworth for about four years recently before being moved back to Washington DC. It was so refreshing to hear someone who loves our area, even to the point where he wishes to retire there. We Kansans often overlook our good fortune of growing up in such a magnificent area, rich with activities and midwestern values.

Also during lunch, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan spoke. His speech and question period was the shortest of the day but still very much appreciated by the participants of USSYP. He greatly echoed my beliefs in establishing yourself locally before you try to satiate your national political ambitions. It was an honor to hear from such a senior senator.

Our next speaker was supposed to be Attorney General Eric Holder, however he got called into a meeting at the White House and we instead heard from his Associate Attorney General Tony West. West was very charismatic, obviously modeling himself somewhat after President Obama. His views were less veiled than some of our other speakers, showing his liberal side with pride. I found this refreshing, as while I don’t agree with many of his views, he was not trying to skirt our questions.

To conclude our evening we pulled a page strait out of National Treasure. We toured the National Archives and heard a speech from the National Archivist of the United States. After the speech, we enjoyed a formal dinner in the main gallery of the Archive building, eating in the presence of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Joining us at dinner was Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. I thoroughly enjoyed Corker, a fairly moderate Republican I share many beliefs with. He eschewed the podium in favor of merely standing in front us. His insights, both as a successful politician and as a successful business owner, fascinated me. Corker was very candid, a word he used almost too frequently as we asked our numerous questions. After about an hour of questions, we had to leave, despite Corker’s efforts to get us to stay a little longer so he could answer all the questions.

Today in addition to the speakers we toured the Capitol building. That unfortunately was very rushed, however we did see many famous senators on the senate floor checking into vote.