By Josh Hughes
When Americans head to the polls every four years to elect a new president, there’s usually a palatable feeling of change from across the country. That’s not to say that every presidential election is a ‘change election,’ or that voters are usually unhappy with incumbent presidents running for reelection. Elections are a time for candidates to share their vision for the future, which usually means fixing the problems of today and mitigating tomorrow’s. Certainly the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election will result in monumental changes in policy in just ten short days. That is certainly felt across the country, but that’s especially true in Washington DC.
Washingtonians are in the midst of preparing for the 58th Presidential Inauguration, but they’re also getting ready for the changes that will happen under the coming Trump Administration. This is something that I hadn’t really considered in the past. It’s one thing for someone like me to anticipate and mitigate the changes that will be happening over the next four years, but for residents of Washington DC, and even more so, the many Washingtonians that work for the Federal Government, those changes are far more tangible and immediate.
According to the Center for Presidential Transition, more than 4,000 employees of the Executive Branch are appointed. Furthermore, many high level appointees have countless staff that will follow them out. Every four years, and especially every time an administration changes, that’s 4,000+ people who must live in a state of limbo leading up to the Presidential Election, and then again if there’s a change in administration. My political consciousness really began around 2011, so I’ve never fully witnessed a presidential transition, and I’ve never really thought about the thousands upon thousands of people, many relatively ‘ordinary’ whose jobs hang in the balance.
Today, we had the pleasure of visiting the US Department of State. It was a real treat to enter through the Hillary Rodham Clinton Pavilion (which was formally opened just hours after we left by its namesake and sever other former Secretaries of State) and to see the famous mural in the Truman Building. Being in the building made me think about the hundreds of State Department employees who must be preparing to leave jobs they might’ve held for the past eight years in just ten days.
However, it’s not just employees of the federal government who have a unique stake in a change in Presidential Transition. After visiting the State Department, we visited Drake University Alum Matt Clark, who works with the international engagement firm, Pyxera Global. Matt told us how even though Pyxera is a non-governmental organization doing international development work primarily with corporations, changes in policy, like how USAID funds are allocated, will affect his firm’s work.
As we go forward in the next ten days, I’m looking forward to learning more about what the Presidential Transition means for other stakeholders around Washington. For many, life will likely move on unchanged, and for many, life will change dramatically over the next four years, beginning in ten days. I look forward to exploring this more in the coming week.
Finally, we ended our day today with a group watch party of President Obama’s farewell address. I’m a big fan of President Obama, and his message of hope, rejecting cynicism, and looking forward to the future is exactly what I needed to hear today. Needless to say, a few tears were shed for our outgoing, and one of our best, Presidents.