Speak up or shut up

Yesterday, we visited Atlantic Media where we met and talked with Drake alum Annelise Escher, an analyst for the company. She emphasized that one of the key things she has done throughout her time at Drake and her new job was to stay true to who she is. She told the story about her time in college when she was a part of Student Senate and her sorority, Delta Gamma. She explained that when she was in situations she did not agree with she always spoke up. For the most part, she admitted this benefited her but once in a while did not. However, she talked about how this is a part of who she is as a person and helped her gain respect from her peers and colleagues. Lastly, she noted this is significant for someone who transitions into DC because no one is going to be there to hold your hand. Therefore, if there is something you don’t agree with, speak up.

DC does not take snow very well. Therefore, yesterday we were supposed to go to the hill and meet with Abby Finkenauer, one of the youngest member of Congress ever. Finkenauer won District One in Iowa during the 2018 midterm elections. However, our visit to see her was canceled because she could not catch a flight back to DC because of the snow. So instead our group had the chance to tour the United States Supreme Court. The view from the outside was breathtaking, the marble building was awe-inspiring. It had been one of my dreams to tour the Supreme Court. As we walked around I noticed the multiple portraits of prior Supreme Court Justices. For those who don’t know, I have a small obsession with Justice John Paul Stevens. He was an outstanding Justice who served the third longest term among all justices. The impact he made on the community is remarkable, especially his dissenting opinion in Citizens United v. FEC where he spoke up for what he believed in.

Before Stevens was a Supreme Court Justice, President Richard Nixon appointed Stevens in 1970 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. About five years later, Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court after Justice William Douglas stepped down. He was appointed by a Republican President but acted as a leader for the liberal side. Justice Stevens retired in 2010 at age 90. Even though he has stepped down as a Justice, he has remained a strong voice on legal issues and Supreme Court cases. He has even testified in Senate committee hearings about cases and policy issues.

The landmark case Citizens United v. FEC eased restrictions on campaign finance. In the dissent, Steven wrote ninety pages explaining why this was a bad decision for our country. The decision that was made by the majority of the court denied Congress the right to impose campaign finance restrictions on corporations and unions who use their treasury funds for political advertising. They found this to ultimately violate the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. He wrote, “that this decision will essentially undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation”. Stevens believed that the majority did not understand section 441(b) and section 203. Since the decision, money has been able to move through super PACS and other organizations. An example of a super PAC would be one of our site visits, Priorities USA. Justice Stevens asserts that the decision diminishes the role of a voter relative to a campaign donor. This opinion gained national recognition as one of the longest dissents ever written. Stevens dedication to this issue was well-expressed in his dissent and provided a compelling argument as to why he disagreed with his colleagues.

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