By Jonathan Oleisky
When I was 22 years old I had the rare opportunity to work for my political hero, the late Arizona Congressman Morris K. Udall, better known as “Mo”. I spent just over two years working for Mo part-time as a Staff Assistant in his Washington DC, Capitol Hill office. While it sounds glamorous, I was the guy in charge of the form letters. Back then we called them “robo” letters. Don’t get me wrong, I treasured every day I spent working on the Hill, and working for Mo in Washington had always been an early goal in my life.
As the graduating class of 2014 prepares to leave college campuses across the United States, legions of 22 year olds probably have some of the same dreams that I had when I was 22. By all means, if you can talk your way into a job on Capitol Hill, then you should take it. Back in 1988 the political atmosphere in Washington was radically different than it is today. Leaders of both parties actually seemed to care about doing the people’s work. While partisan differences were evident then, Members of Congress genuinely believed that public service was a high calling.
Mo was one of those Members who believed that government could do “good” for the people and should take care of its citizens. He taught me that public service was an honorable profession and that being a member of Congress was not a right, but a rare opportunity to serve your fellow citizens.
With the toxic environment oozing from Capitol Hill today, I challenge those of you who are 22 to reclaim the debate in Washington. Take your current idealism (which I hope you still have) and passions with you to Capitol Hill. It’s time to tell our leaders to stop bickering, put party aside and start acting like mature adults. Your motto should be country first, party second. #IfIWere22 again and had the opportunity, I would join you in an instant.