D.C. Think Tank is Andrew Steele’s ’10 Home for Summer

Andrew Steele '10
Andrew Steele '10
Andrew Steele ’10 is working at a quiet organization this summer, with fewer than 30 staff members and 10 to 12 interns. Despite the fact that it is relatively calm inside, the Center for Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) is surrounded by the commotion of the nation’s capital. Steele says he is excited to be in a place like Washington, D.C., where bustling streets represent the constant hum of political activity.

The CSPC is a think tank whose mission is to write informed, non-partisan policy papers. Think tanks are small groups that conduct research and engage in advocacy areas, and their reports are usually not as politicized as other papers that exist on certain topics. They are almost always private institutions, and many of them present information on issues that are not likely to be solved in the near future. In addition, think tank members are usually more at ease debating controversial issues than people within the government.

A large chunk of Steele’s time is spent outside the office, attending conferences and panels on pressing issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and the United States’ relations with China. He also evaluates research papers and consults senators and representatives on their opinions. Steele says that he savors the chance to work in a division of politics that so perfectly laces together his interest in international relations and diplomatic corps. He also believes this summer will help him put his double major in Chinese and Government into effect.

“It’s straight up my alley,” he said. But after he received the offer, Steele discovered that the job was unpaid. Fortunately, the Joseph F. Anderson ’44 Internship Fund provided him with a stipend to support the full-time position. A student in any proposed or declared area of concentration may apply for the award.

Steele laments the changing face of policy, and feels that politicians are more concerned with getting through another four-year cycle than anything else. They are always preparing for the next election, and any one of their actions might illustrate only a desire to get ahead.

“To me, that’s depressing,” he said. He stresses that policy decisions should be able to stand on their own as sound political victories, rather than as tools to generate hype or publicity. He feels that think tanks are a way to offset this behavior. The rising senior still travels home to Buffalo so that he can vote in town, county and even school board elections – a tradition that reflects his dedication to his ideals.
A resolute sense of morals is exactly what makes Steele so good at what he does.

Steele works in the Ethics and Integrity division of the CSPC, and his policy advisor was an undersecretary for President Nixon during his first term. He also describes a woman he met who worked for the Institute of Global Ethics. “They both have had very different experiences,” he said. “But at the same time, they both have a singular vision of how ethics should play out.”

Steele finds that it is imperative for politicians to be ethically savvy. He has read that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s philosophies are akin to both Jon Stuart Mill’s and Immanuel Kant’s. He supports this kind of real world application of morals through political theory.

“I like working in this department because, unfortunately, it’s a huge problem,” Steele said. He is not one to shy away from problems – in fact, he started the Hamilton chapter of Democracy Matters, a national, non-partisan campus-based project that works to kick money out of politics and bring people back in.

Steele might decide to apply to the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Program next year. The foreign expedition would give him the opportunity to do research on the border between China and North Korea. “I’m drawn to the idea of soaking up experiences,” he said. “If I were older, not having a hot shower would be a problem. But I’m only 20, and I think it’s important to do crazy things and be adventurous.”

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