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Getting used to the grind

February 28, 2011   

The last few weeks here in D.C. have been quite a blur. I keep feeling like I have barely moved into our Woodley Place apartments, and yet the end of this week marks the official halfway point of the D.C. program, with a one-week break followed by a seven-week sprint to the finish. The past several weeks have included a meeting with a Marc Elias, a Hamilton alum and perhaps the most prominent Democratic campaign lawyer in the country, which gave us an opportunity to have a lively discussion about the merits of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. What I might take the most from that meeting, though, may be his valuable advice about the rigors of law school, and the realistic perspective he provided for us: Don’t go to law school unless you’re absolutely certain you want to be a lawyer (because people who say you can do anything with a law degree may just be embellishing a bit), and don’t go in with romanticized notions of what being a lawyer actually means.

We toured the Pentagon last week, visiting the 9/11 memorial, walking past the Secretary of Defense’s office, and more or less getting an idea of just how big the Pentagon is (more floor space than the Empire State Building). We’ve spent class-time engaging in lively debate about public sector unions, the federal budget, and the Middle East Revolution, and are starting to move ahead with our independent projects that will be due by the end of the semester (I am hoping to pursue a project that examines the new role of the U.S. military intelligence apparatus in our counterrorism efforts). Tomorrow I’ll be heading up to Capitol Hill for a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the EPA’s regulating of greenhouse gas emissions and its effect on the American economy, an event I’ll be covering and writing a report on for my internship.

Most of all, what I feel like I and my fellow classmates have gotten out of this D.C. experience so far is a daily dose of what it means to be a person in the real world. Getting to go to a Supreme Court hearing is a tremendous opportunity, but in the long run what I’m taking the most from this experience is simply learning what it means to wake up every morning, go to work, understand what 9-5 really means, and soak that in. It’s a welcome counterweight to the academic rigors of the Hamilton campus, and I think when you combine the two experiences, that is what is preparing me most for whatever is in store for me after the Hamilton chapter of my life closes.

On Wednesday, we have an in-class test on the material that we’ve been studying the past several weeks. It’ll provide an excellent opportunity to wax nostalgic for life on the Hill, with the frantic last-minute cramming and sudden existence of stacks and stacks of academic papers to work through a reminder that we’ll be back at Hamilton before we know it.