Semester in Washing: Part 2

Since my last post, lots has happened in D.C. First and foremost, our group of 16 had the honor of meeting Justice Clarence Thomas. I think I speak on behalf of the group when I say that the meeting exceeded all of our expectations (that were high to begin with, no doubt). Justice Thomas is known to be very quiet on the bench (he once went nearly 10 years without asking a question during oral arguments), but is gregarious and as welcoming as one could hope in real life. A meeting that was slated to last a little over an hour turned into a nearly three hour meeting, including a personal tour of his office, offers to attend oral arguments, and a small group tour of the entire Supreme Court building.

In addition, we met with Brendan Dunn (HC ‘96) who worked alongside Mitch McConnell as the key staff architect of his endeavors with respect to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017. We met Mr. Dunn at the private firm for which he works after his public service experience, and he gave us more than two hours of his time, speaking on his time at Holy Cross, his post-undergraduate career path, while fielding our questions on all sorts of topics. Shortly thereafter, we met with Rich Davey (HC ‘95), who was the Secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation, before becoming the Associate Director of the Boston Consulting Group. Mr. Davey took the time to attend our seminar on a Tuesday night to share anecdotes of his time on the Hill (both Mt. Saint James and Capitol Hill). Next class, Amy Brundage, deputy assistant to President Obama and deputy communications director at the White House, stopped by to speak with us and answer questions. Finally, and most recently, Brian Morrissey met the group at Vapiano’s Restaurant to chat over dinner about his time clerking for Clarence Thomas, his experience in the private sector, and his recent move to the Department of Justice, where he serves as the Counselor to the Attorney General. As one can imagine, we were all excited, albeit somewhat shocked, that this semester program included so many meetings with high profile Holy Cross alumni; however, I don’t think any of us were utterly surprised by how warm and down to earth each and every one of the alumni were. One hears about the dedicated alumni base at Holy Cross, but we all witnessed that in action as very busy professionals invited us to their place of work, or missed dinner with their families, to share their insight and experiences.

Amidst meeting with these gracious alumni, we all were chipping away at our thesis, eventually handing in a rough draft early last week. Personally, I have never carried out a 40-50 page research project, so grappling with the body of literature I consulted, pacing the project appropriately, and ensuring that enough, but not too much, background is provided before delving into my argument is proving to be a serious challenge indeed. That said, my advisers have been giving helpful, regular feedback, and I already feel myself becoming more confident as a writer; not to mention the fact that it’s intellectually rewarding to feel like I could talk at length about a singular subject. We on the trip joke that those 10-12 page papers due at the end of the semester will seem a good deal more manageable after we have this project under our belts.

All this said, we need some time to decompress on the weekends. Luckily, last weekend, the temperature hovered between 60-low 70s. As if such nice spring weather wasn’t enough, my girlfriend came to visit me on my birthday. We took the metro three stops to Arlington Cemetery and walked the beautiful grounds, and later that day, we visited both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. On Saturday, I drove us to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate, and took a mansion tour. I highly recommend seeing Mount Vernon. It’s a little outside of D.C. proper, but totally worth the 25 minute drive.

By the time you read this, I will have less than three weeks left in D.C. I was told in high school that the years “fly by”, and was reminded of that phenomenon again in college by family and recent grads. But truly, no period of my young adult life has passed quite as quickly as my semester in Washington. It surely doesn’t help that my friends and I regularly, almost in disbelief, discuss the fact that we are coming up on our senior year, but that reality notwithstanding, I still wish I had more time in the city. I love my job at the Federalist Society, Costco grocery runs with my roommates are more fun than they are burdensome, and I know I have only seen and experience one percent of what D.C. has to offer.