by Ted Bossong (’24)
It’s hard to believe that the fifth week has already gone by, but I’m looking forward to my first real day off since starting work on the Hill with President’s Day coming up on Monday. That being said, I’ll touch on a few things at work this week as well as about our Friday speaker.
This week was by far the slowest week at work I’ve had, and it was good and bad to have this sort of change of pace. Despite the Senate being in session and there being no shortage of pressing matters, the other two staff assistants were out for various reasons and so I sat up front answering phones all day with the other remaining staff assistant. While that experience was critical for building my reputation as a hard worker in the office, it didn’t provide the rich, varied experience that is interesting to write about.
The speaker for this week was Ambassador Roemer, who served as the ambassador to India during the Obama Administration and previously served as a Representative from Indiana. He is what I call a “blue dog” Democrat, that is a conservative/moderate Democrat who is still loyal to the party. As such, Ambassador Roemer spent most of his time talking about how best to connect with people and answering our questions on that topic mostly, as well as gathering his thoughts on the state of America. The things that stuck out to me most where threefold:
- Ambassador Roemer always puts country ahead of party. He wasn’t afraid to critique the shortcomings of the Biden Administration and praise what the Trump Administration did well. He maintained that loyalty was the currency of the realm in politics, and Ambassador Roemer had the experience and stories to back that up, which I admire greatly.
- Ambassador Roemer emphasized that storytelling is one of the most effective ways to communicate with people. Not only did he say this outright, but he told stories about storytelling, which really helped prove his point. He was an effective storyteller, and to have had the successes that he’s had, storytelling is a must-have skill.
- Finally, Ambassador Roemer told us the value of listening. He shared with us a story of how he flipped an entire town in rural Indiana from hardline Republicans into reliable voters for him, just by showing up to listen to their concerns every Saturday. Throughout his time in the House, he would frequently return to the garage where the group of farmers met for a 10am beer and just listen to what their concerns were.
Ambassador Roemer’s visit was very informative and reinforced the value and importance of three key skills, being loyalty, storytelling, and listening, and he conveyed these messages in such a way that further defended his experiences with these three skills. What at first seemed like a slow week at work turned out to be a very influential and informative week on some of the subtler aspects of work, politics, and building strong relationships, and I think this is part of the critical value of being in the Wake Washington program.