The students of the JSA Summer School at Georgetown were formally introduced to the Speakers Program yesterday, taking their first trip off-campus to Capitol Hill. The students met with and questioned several numerous officials and prominent figures, including several U.S. Senators. The speakers addressed many of the problems in today’s legislature that are all too familiar to Americans today, as well as issues with the media.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska focused on the problem of energy dependency and gave her proposed strategy for the U.S.: a focus on producing more of the fossil fuels which power most of our country while continuing to research and develop new technologies, as well as new and better strategies to conserve energy. All three components, argued Murkowski, are necessary to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil. “Meeting Senator Murkowski was a fantastic experience that I will not forget,” exclaimed Abigayle Stephens of Lakeland, FL. “After hearing her speak about her passions in politics, she has become my role model for political involvement.”
Senators Kristin Gillibrand of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont discussed some of the problems in today’s Congress, particularly the issue of the political stalemates which have stagnated legislative action. Both noted issues which are points of extreme contention among today’s politicians, such as the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the Health and Human Services contraception mandate. They argued, however, that issues such as these are not nearly as important to most Americans when compared with more pressing issues such as the economy as a whole, and Senator Sanders cited this disconnect as a cause of current congressional unpopularity.
Patrick Healy, a producer at CBS, discussed the problems in today’s media and the implications of the rise of online journalism. Israel Klein spoke of his time in JSA as well as his experiences in the lobbying industry, stressing his personal belief that most lobbying firms are acting in the best interest of the country by helping legislators stay informed on a variety of issues. Transgressions do occur but have resulted in severe punishment.