This whole trip we have heard from a number of people in a number of different professions. Each of them have their own story of how they got to where they are and their own story for who they have become. From site visits to seminar in the morning there remains one commonality, keep and open mind and keep meeting people.
In our morning sessions we were able to hear from two very prominent Republicans in Washington today. Sean Spicer, former Trump Press Secretary, as well as Michael Steele, former Chair of the RNC. Each of them was enjoyable to listen to and each of them carried similar messages at points. Spicer started by talking about how his family, early life, and how he came to be in the Republican Party. And something that stuck out to me was how driven and focused he was when he was climbing the ranks through the Republican Party. He told us a story about a campaign that he had worked on and he received the offer at a time in his life when he was in between jobs or still looking for something in Communications, the details of this specific have slipped my mind. However, when his next job was offered to him, he said that the person that offered it to him flat out said something along the lines of, Sean, we have a job for you on this particular campaign, but were not going to win. It just isn’t going to happen this time, do you still want the job? Then Sean Spicer went on to say yes, and when telling the story, he made sure to let us know that the indeed did not win that campaign. That isn’t the point however, the point is even though Spicer was aware that this campaign was likely going to end up in the drain, he took the job because it was what he had wanted to do all along. He saw an opportunity to work in his preferred field and took it.
Michael Steele was a bit different in his approach, but he mentioned something similar. Although his main focus was where the Republican Party is at today, where he thinks it is going, and who Republicans are now, he touched on the importance of vision. Much like Spicer he had a story as well. Steele started by talking about his about himself getting one of his first jobs with the party. How he got this job was by having an open mind about doing a specific thing. His connection that offered him a job literally asked him what it was that Steele wanted to do. Then when Steele responded with the answer, anything, his connection was not happy and told him to come back when he had an answer. When he did that, the connection that he had been talking to knew exactly who to call and knew exactly the kind of job that Steele would be good in. So, in this story and message, there is a theme of fluidity. You have to be okay with knowing what you want to do but not knowing where you want to start. I think that is what these two speakers tried to get across in there messages on those certain fronts.
Many of our site visits stood out to me for many of the same reasons. One of the biggest messages that most, if not all of the Drake alum we visited, gave us was to have an open mind in doing different kind of jobs. One person that stands out to me in this respect is someone that is actually not a Drake alum but is someone that we had the opportunity to talk with. Ben is a reporter for Politico that covers higher education at the publication. This isn’t always what he wanted to do however. There came a time for Ben when he was working at a journalist in Texas that he happened to be almost assigned higher education. I remember him saying that he didn’t want to cover this topic and he didn’t particularly know a ton about higher education, but he did it anyways. Now he works at Politico, covering the same topic he once didn’t want to cover at small, local papers. He even said, after talking about this, be flexible and open minded in your career. As long as you do a good job and know the material, you might end up doing something different, that’s how one of the Drake alum we talked to ended up at priorities USA.
Jill Shesol works at Priorities, a left leaning Super PAC. This isn’t where she thought she ended up and necessarily where she wanted to end up. She assured us that she loves her job now, but she just didn’t think that shed be working at a place like Priorities. Jill had spent extensive amounts of time on political campaigns at Drake, and her time after Drake, and it would ultimately be her time on these campaigns that led her to getting a job at Priorities. She had made connections as everyone does and she appeared competent and dedicated in her work. The job at Priorities was offered to her by someone who was familiar with her and her work and thought that she might do a good job. After she told us about how she got there, she pointed out the same thing that everyone has been pointing out, keep an open mind when looking, or not looking for jobs in DC. She had no idea about opportunities like this, she took it because it came up. I think Sean Spicer would applauder her for that because he did the same thing. People in DC take jobs because they come up and they view them as good opportunities, not necessarily because they are looking. Keeping an open mind is one of the best things that can be told to us right now because even if one job isn’t where we want to be, it may, and often does, lead us to that place.