HLS Democrats go to Washington

BY DAVID BURD

While the outcome of this fall’s elections were less than ideal for many HLS Democrats, they have remained an active force on campus. Earlier this month, the HLS Democrats embarked on their first, of what will likely become annual, trips to the nation’s capitol.

The group of students who attended – 19 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls – met with a variety of distinguished individuals. A highlight of the trip was a talk with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She discussed the collegiality that prevails among the Court’s members, and fielded questions about her own background fighting for women’s equality and about the Court’s current makeup. The students also met with Senator Paul Sarbanes, ’60 (D-MD) and Senator Carl Levin, ’59 (D-MI), who shared their views on the social security debate, the war in Iraq, and the dynamics on Capitol Hill.

Other visits included a talk with Peter Scher, former campaign manager for John Edwards’ Vice Presidential campaign and partner at Mayer Brown, and several of his firm colleagues who do legislative work; a discussion with lobbyists who shared insights into their more purely political career path; a talk with several attorneys who work on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the Chief Counsel for Senator Leahy (D-VT), the ranking member; and a discussion with Amanda La Forge and Joe Sandler, the In-House Counsel and outside General Counsel, respectively, to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). These visits not only provided students with interesting war stories and insights into the political arena in Washington, but also first-hand advice regarding the variety of career paths open to attorneys interested in working at the intersection of law, policy, and politics.

In addition to these meetings, the group also enjoyed several other truly Washington, DC experiences. While their classmates were reading about the Gonzalez nomination debate in newspapers, they actually watched some of the debate on the floor of the Senate. Students also took a tour of the recently renovated DNC headquarters, hosted an alumni happy hour at the Hawk and Dove, a classic Capitol Hill bar, and enjoyed good company and good drinks at several other capitol-area drinking establishments.

All in all, if student responses were any measure, the trip was a tremendous success. As 1L Mike Negron commented, “We had the chance to listen to and speak with a variety of truly amazing speakers, providing thoughts about their work and about the types of job opportunities we will have when we graduate.”

Eric Haren, a 2L, added, “The trip was a great opportunity for students in the Dems to get to know one another – to really bond. It was a really fun time.”

The HLS Democrats have been very active on campus this year, organizing debate-watching parties and election work around the Presidential campaign this fall. Looking forward, they will be holding a conference from April 4-8, focused on building up the Democratic Party’s infrastructure, and they are organizing a happy hour later this month and several other discussions later this spring. Students interested in participating should get on the HLS Democrats’ list-serve by emailing Erin Abrams at eabrams@law.harvard.edu.

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