Only Those with No Power Understand Power

Interview with Charlotte Clymer

Cy Harris

Today, after a scheduling mixup, we finally interviewed Charlotte Clymer. An ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, she was by far my favorite interviewee. I found her diverse and, some might say, contradictory background incredibly fascinating, and the opportunity to speak with her is something I will always value. She began by talking about her military experience and her belief in the importance of public service, whether it is in the military, Peace Corps, health care or any other area that requires service to others. She had a lot of advice related to politics and social issues, the most significant of which to me was the issue of gender inequality. We discussed how both women and men are infantilized and how the only way to overcome this is to maintain high standards for others and ourselves. She stated that the “boys will be boys” attitude is the most offensive thing that can be said about boys or men. Society has a low standard for men. They are expected to be masculine, violent, and in control. When men don’t display these traits, they aren’t seen as men. However, when they do demonstrate these traits and their actions become extreme, we make excuses for them and say, “boys will be boys.” She wants us to raise our standards and show greater respect for men and women alike. Holding a high standard for ourselves makes us good people and encourages those around us to be better as well. 

She also spoke on our shortcomings as a country – not to demoralize us but to motivate us. We as a society need to act on the opportunities that are presented to us. A great example is how countries around the world responded after the attacks on 9/11. Countries around the world, including “enemies” such as Iran, reached out in peace to pay their respects. Unfortunately, we did nothing to foster those potential relationships. On the topic of gun laws, she said that the fact that some states regulate gun purchases responsibly while others do not is ridiculous. The result is that a person can purchase a gun in one state and then travel to another state and use that gun to wreak havoc, and everything up to the point that the gun is used is perfectly legal. This situation results in distrust of our government and our fellow citizens. More effort needs to be put into the fight to change gun laws, international relations, gender inequality, LGBTQIA+ rights – and so much more – but we can do it.

Beatrice Miller

On our final morning in DC, I was excited to interview our last interviewee, Charlotte Clymer. Charlotte is a transgender activist and serves on the DC Commission for Persons with Disabilities. She works to educate, advocate, and create equity and equality in our country. 

I had been very interested to hear from her, specifically on her views of the new generation as we come into positions of power. Something interesting that she said is that only those who have no power understand power. In other words, those who face racial, gender, or other forms of discrimination best understand the effects that decisions by people in power have. Officials who have never had the experience of feeling dehumanized or weak do not really understand the power that they wield. I found her perspective very illuminating, as I had never thought about the effects the decisions of unprepared leaders can have on others, especially when those leaders have no connection to the people affected by their decisions. 

Charlotte has made me think about how I should see others. I should assume that everyone has their own experience with pain in their lives. By not immediately assuming that people are bad just because they think or act differently than I do, I can avoid projecting my own ideas onto them, and I can see them better as real human beings.

Ona Musoll-Buendia

Charlotte Clymer gave me the most unique perspective on my own outlook on our world. She spoke about many different topics, from her connection with God and her faith to controversial topics like gun laws. One of the topics she spoke about that really resonated with me is understanding people from different communities.

She stated that you can only understand other people that have different backgrounds if you interact with them and hang around them. You have to get a sense of the community that they are a part of, such as—LGBTQ+ communities in this case. This statement opened my eyes to see how isolated we can be and how much we really don’t understand one another. We have to wake up and realize that for our world to be the peaceful sanctuary that we strive for, we need to come together as one by respecting each other’s views and developing the capability to understand each other. 

A little later in the interview, she expressed how our task as the future of our nation is to create conversations that lead to consensus, and consensus can only be created if we listen to others. In this day and age, we are focused on what’s right in front of us in the present moment, which can keep us from thinking about the future. An example of this that I see that Charlotte discussed as well is the crisis regarding gun ownership. I see posts on social media platforms that have been expressing their concerns for many years, but no real action has been taken to prevent the abuse of gun rights. In order for us to accomplish the task, we have to be able to push beyond what we know and not only listen but understand.

Our interview with Charlotte was the most mind-altering experience that I have had since coming to DC. I really learned a lot from her regarding what we have to do in order for our country and our world to be the place that we want it to be.

Bella Padilla

Our last day in DC was wonderful. We had the honor of speaking with LGBTQIA+ activist Charlotte Clymer. She is one of the sweetest and most down to earth people I’ve met. It was incredible the way she carried herself with grace and spoke knowledgeably. This interview was the perfect way to wrap up our trip. 

One of my favorite things she said to us is that it’s up to our generation to make a difference. She mentioned that her generation won’t have to deal with the full effects of certain things like climate change, whereas our generation will, and it’s up to us to make a difference. She talked about how hard work can get us anywhere, an idea that all the interviewees this week discussed. I’ll keep that in mind when I’m back home. Another thing she said that’s “coming home with me” is that “hurt people hurt people.” Related to this idea is the idea that the most dangerous person is someone who doesn’t feel heard, and I think it’s our job as a generation to help change that by working to give a voice to everybody.

Be the Volunteer

Interview with Sean O’Keefe

Logan Shaw

Today we interviewed Sean O’Keefe, who has been described as a high level “fixer upper” and has served in a number of important positions, such as Secretary of the Navy and chancellor of Louisiana State University. Currently he is a professor at Maxwell School at Syracuse University. The job that he has held that I found most interesting is head administrator at NASA.

He had a lot to say about his time at NASA. One thing that I found particularly interesting is what he had to say about the new James Webb telescope. He said that no previous telescope compares with it. For example, the Hubble telescope is 350 miles above the surface of the earth, and if we need to perform maintenance on it, we can do so fairly easily. However, the James Webb telescope is a million miles away from earth in the Lagrange Point, a place where the gravity of the sun and the earth are equal so that it can sit freely in space. Because it is above earth’s atmosphere, all the clutter that would normally be in the way of the telescope isn’t there, so it has better views of the universe. However, it is almost impossible to service it, so it must be made much more durable. It took over 17 years to develop it, almost twice as long as it took to put someone on the moon. I thought it was very cool that Mr. O’Keefe helped initiate the development of the telescope. 

Another thing that I thought was interesting was how he dealt with the space shuttle Columbia that disintegrated on re-entry, killing seven people. Shortly afterwards, there was public pressure to launch a shuttle mission to fix the Hubble telescope. He made the decision to cancel the mission because he deemed it too dangerous, even though many astronomers and astronauts wanted the mission to happen. He explained that until the issue that caused the Columbia disaster was fixed, there could be no more missions. I think a valuable takeaway from this would be that you need to use reason instead of emotion to make difficult decisions.

Wyatt Adams

On our last day in DC, we had the opportunity to interview Secretary Sean O’Keefe. We are at the end of the week, so we’re quite tired, but I was looking forward to our talk. Sec. O’Keefe shared two ideas that I found most inspiring. I hope that in my future I can implement these principles in my life. 

The first thing that he said that struck me as important is that no matter what you do or who you are, your actions will always have an impact on somebody else. He made it clear that even the smallest actions will impact somebody at some point. I’m hoping that as I make decisions in life I will keep this in my mind and think before I act. I will try and think about the repercussions of my actions and if they are harming or hurting other people. I am very grateful for this lesson, since I know I need to work on thinking before I act.

Sec. O’Keefe made another important point, that leadership should always take responsibility for the failures of the organization. He emphasized that accountability is the key to progress. Without accountability, anger and outrage become more likely as people search for someone to blame. If leaders of organizations take ownership of the actions of the organization, there is someone to manage conflict and ensure that steps are taken to prevent the problem from happening again. Taking responsibility is often difficult for people, and it takes courage to stand up to other people and continue to defend your decision. Sec. O’Keefe made it very clear that you need to stand by your decisions if you want to make a difference in this world. I have made a few decisions in life, and friends have disagreed with some of the decisions. I usually give in and apologize for my actions, but now, after hearing what Sec. O’Keefe said, I hope to be strong enough to defend my actions even when others disagree.

Erik Howley

Meeting and interviewing Sean O’Keefe was an incredibly insightful and inspiring experience for our class. Secretary O’Keefe shared with us valuable insights and experiences related to the issues of leadership, accountability, and volunteering

Throughout our conversation, he emphasized the importance of taking responsibility for your actions. He stated that leaders must be willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions and decisions. Accountability is especially important in times of crisis, when it is easy and tempting to pass blame to avoid taking responsibility. Sec. O’Keefe stressed that the most effective leaders are the ones who are willing to be accountable to themselves and others, even when things don’t go to as planned.

Sec. O’Keefe also spoke about the importance of being the person in the room who’s willing to volunteer. He explained that volunteering is not just about helping others but an opportunity to develop leadership and gain valuable experience. Stepping up to “be the volunteer” demonstrates initiative, a willingness to take on new challenges, and the readiness to work that is the mark of a true leader.

I believe that this interview resonated deeply with my class and especially me, and we were all inspired by his words. As students, we are constantly learning and developing our leadership skills. Sec. O’Keefe’s insights have given us a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader, and we will carry these lessons with us as we continue to develop as people.

Mount Madonna School students with Sean O’Keefe

A Visit to the Capitol Galleries

This morning we took a twenty minute walk back to the Capitol to look at the Senate and the House of Representatives galleries.

We visited the House of Representatives first. We walked down a hallway to where we could see the old windows of the Capitol before it was expanded. Once at the House of Representatives, we sat at the top of the level and looked down at the House floor. Looking up, we saw a glass eagle on the ceiling. The walls at the top are covered with portraits of famous representatives. On the bottom level are the 435 seats of the members of the House. 

We then visited the Senate. The Senate room also has an eagle on the ceiling. We sat down on the top level, where we watched people working on the audio system in the room. The chief spokesperson told us that on Tuesday there will be a session. A security guard informed us that the chief spokesperson and assistants take turns talking to visitors every hour. On the top level there were statues of various senators from the past. Each of the fifty states has two seats, one for each senator. Behind the podium is the chair of the Vice President, who is the President of the Senate. 

The architecture in the Capitol is amazing. There are statues and paintings in almost every room. In one room I saw a painting of a senator with a Lion. Viewing the House and Senate galleries was very interesting, but I imagine it would be very tiring to sit there for long stretches of time while Congress is in session. 

– Peter S.

Everything with an ISBN

Library of Congress Visit

Irulan Cockrum

Today we visited the Library of Congress. Inside the building there are beautiful sculptures and works of art that are accompanied by quotations related to the art in interesting ways. For example, under the word comedy was a painting of a woman holding a mask with a frown on it. Most of the art was of women, nature, and animals. The library holds everything published with an IBS code. The library also features a room containing important photographs and their descriptions. 

At first, I was not very impressed or surprised by the library. I have visited many churches in El Salvador that have just as much if not more art and architectural detail. However, when I entered the room with the photographs, I was surprised by the number and variety of photos of Native Americans, cats, regular people, and protesters. I spent a long time admiring a panorama photograph of smiling women in their swimsuits at the beach. The picture was taken at the bikini competition for a Miss California title in the 1920s.

Cooper Padilla

In between interviews today, we visited the Library of Congress. I wasn’t sure about going because we have had a long week, and I was tired, but I decided to go because I probably wouldn’t get to see it again otherwise. My classmates and I made our way down the street towards the library and began reflecting on the trip. Today was hotter than most days, but the plants were green and gave me something to look at while I pondered. I was beginning to gather together what I learned in the past week and organize it in some way. 

As we entered the building, I was still gathering my thoughts, but then I became distracted by the amazing architecture and art. There were exhibits to explore, things to read, and more to learn, but I was already full of new feelings and ideas, so I just wandered around and looked at the architecture. I saw some quotations on the ceiling that were compelling. One in particular caught my eye: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” I related this idea to my ambitions as a musician, replacing reading, conference, and writing, with listening, performing, and practicing. The quotation seemed obvious to me at first glance, but the wording struck me more deeply upon greater reflection. Being full, ready, and exact are all values I wish to achieve musically, and seeing that quotation really helped me to reflect on them.

To be honest, I expected that DC would just be full of uptight politicians who are unrelatable and distant. I didn’t expect that their ambitions and motivations would align with mine. Coming to the end of this trip, I’m left with a completely different perspective. Even though their paths through life are probably very different from mine, much of what they said applies to me and my classmates. Working hard, keeping an open mind, and seeking authenticity are key values that I learned on this trip, and the library surprisingly tied it all together for me.

The American Dream Is Personal

Interview with Senator Ben Cardin

This afternoon we interviewed Senator Cardin, who has held his seat in the Senate since 2007. Our interview with him was short, only thirty minutes. Senator Cardin has been a chairman of the Helsinki Commission since 2006, and in 2015 he was named the Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, a position he still holds. During our interview, Senator Cardin discussed a number of interesting topics, one of them being a bill that the state of Maryland just passed that allows people to work in public service for the government for a year as a way of getting into college. 

When asked what he thinks the American Dream is and whether or not it’s achievable for our generation, he said that his idea of the American Dream is “personal” and comes largely from his grandfather. He told a story about his grandfather selling vegetables from a small cart that he would push down the street. Because of the war in Europe at the time, his grandfather had to decide whether to stay in Europe or move to America. He chose to start a new life in America and work hard to create opportunities for his children. Senator Cardin stated that wants everyone to obtain their own version of the American Dream. I asked him a question about our generation and the number of new and complex issues that affect our future. In his response, he said, “do jobs or engage in hobbies that will make you happy” and to “work hard to meet challenges.”

-Peter S.

Isaiah Orozco

Today I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Senator Ben Cardin, a senior US senator from Maryland. I was extremely inspired by what he had to say to us. What stood out for me most was what he had to say about the American Dream: “I think the American Dream is personal, and it is achievable for everyone, but you must work for it.” I found Senator Cardin to be very easy going and open minded. An example of his open mindedness was the way he described working with Republicans in the Senate, many of whom hold very different views from his own. When discussing a recent gun bill that became law, he stated that although it was not everything he wanted, it was far better than nothing, and passing it required cooperation and compromise: “Did I think that was enough? No. Was it progress? Yes. Do I think more needs to be done? Yes, but progress is better than standing still.” I completely agree with his perspective, because we cannot wait around for the perfect gun law while horrible shootings continue to occur, and it is better to fix only part of the problem than to fix none of it. 

Finally, Senator Cardin had plenty of advice for us in the interview: “Expect the unexpected,” “Find out what really satisfies your psyche,” and “You have a lot of time left, so focus on what makes you happy.”

Using Your Voice for Social Impact

Interview with Carla Dirlikov Canales

Wyatt Adams

Today we had the chance to interview Carla Dirlikov Canales, an opera singer who enjoys helping others through art. She has created projects and initiatives that help impoverished communities express themselves through art. She has sung at Carnegie Hall, and she is very intelligent and insightful. Two points stood out to me from our interview with her. 

The first is that she said that whenever she does something, she gives it her all, nothing less than 100%. To do so, she finds it necessary to compartmentalize. When she is doing her music, she focuses on that alone and doesn’t allow herself to become distracted. She even tells her friends that she is focusing on music and doesn’t want to be distracted. I think this is good advice, since I am a minimalist. Ever since a project in fifth grade, I have put the bare minimum into school. I have been told by everyone that I need to put more effort into my schoolwork, but I still haven’t done that. After hearing Carla tell us about how she works and the things that she has accomplished as a result, I feel inspired to start putting in the extra work to succeed. 

The second thing that Carla said that struck me is that in order to succeed you must be stubborn and not give up. Again, people tell me that in order to do well in life I have to go all-out and not give up. When she made this point the first time, I wasn’t moved by what she said, but when she repeated the idea that being stubborn can lead to great results, I realized that if I am persistent enough I really can accomplish anything. She talked about how in order for her to go to college she needed a full ride scholarship. She was offered a scholarship because she is Hispanic, but she didn’t want it. Instead of giving up, she called the person in charge of the scholarship and asked why she didn’t get an academic scholarship, and the person told her that she scored a 27 on the ACT but needed a 28 for a full-ride scholarship. She then re-took the ACT, got a better score, and got the full ride scholarship. I found this story inspiring because she was only a teenager at the time. I’m hoping to keep these two ideas in my mind as I move forward in life.

Logan Shaw

Today, we interviewed Carla Dirlikov Canales, who is an opera singer who focuses on the arts to spread awareness about cultural and social issues. I was really impressed by how much she has accomplished. She has starred in international productions, started projects such as the Canales Project, and she speaks five languages fluently. She also works with the government on the “Turnaround Arts” program, which aims to “turn around” failing schools by getting students involved in the arts. She believes that education in the arts is important to society because it helps to develop a person’s imagination, and imagination is necessary for social change. 

Carla emphasizes that if you persevere anything is possible. She shared an anecdote to illustrate her point. She said that the only way she could get into college was to get a full ride scholarship, and at first she didn’t get one. She then called the college and remained on hold with the admission department for hours. She finally got through to someone and asked what she could have done to get a full-ride scholarship. They told her that if she scored one more point on the ACT she could have received a full ride. She retook the exam and earned the scholarship, allowing her to attend college. 

Carla urged us to connect with her, as having adult mentorship has been a key to her success, and she wants to help others succeed as well. She genuinely wants us to reach out to her, and she gave us her email address and phone number. It was very cool how much she wants to support us throughout our journeys into the future.

Sophia Manzur

Today we interviewed Carla Dirlikov Canales, the founder of the Canales Project,  an organization that celebrates culture and community through art. Carla is also a professional opera singer who performs internationally and has performed at the National Gallery of Art, the Public Theater, and the Kennedy Center. I was especially excited to interview Carla because, like her, I am an artist and Mestiza. Not only do I relate to Carla on a personal level, but I see her as an iconic figure because, like her, I hope to use art to bring communities together. 

I asked Carla the following question: “You created The Canales Project for people to share their personal experiences with culture and identity through music and conversation. At times, dealing with the tensions that can arise when one is raised in different distinct cultural environments can make one feel as though they are living ‘between two worlds.’ Being Mestiza, I struggle with feeling connected to my Mexican roots because I have grown up surrounded by a completely different culture. What can those who feel lost regarding their cultural identity learn from your project?” Carla responded that she has always felt like she was lost in her cultural identity. Her mother is Mexican, and her father is Bulgarian. Carla spoke about having to learn two completely different cultures in addition to American culture. She wants to help those who also struggle to find their own cultural identity. She says that she uses her art as a platform for others to achieve their personal goals. 

During the summer of 2022, I attended California State Summer School for the Arts, a theater arts program. On my first day there, my acting studio teacher asked us if we are in love with theater and why. At first I responded that of course I am in love with the arts because I have an indescribably great feeling when I perform. Upon reflection, however, I realized that I didn’t really understand why I have this great feeling when I perform. What Carla said about why she loves the arts helped me identify why I have this feeling. Carla said that all humans have emotions, and art is a way for us to express them. No matter what differences we have, we are able to connect with one another through the arts. I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than being able to express yourself with others as part of a loving community. 

Although I live “between two worlds” and have had difficulty finding my own identity, when I’m dancing, singing, writing poetry, or acting, those two worlds coexist in harmony. When I immerse myself in my art, I am authentic and true to myself in a way that better allows others to see me not as belonging to one world or the other but simply as me. I am grateful to Carla for helping me understand myself and my motivations better.

Protecting Children By Listening to Them

Interview with Liz Ryan

Beatrice Miller

The morning began with an interview with Liz Ryan, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). I walked into this interview keen to listen to what she had to say, and I was confident that our questions were interesting. She began by talking briefly about herself, what the OJJDP does, and how she came to work at it. 

I had never heard of the OJJDP before the DC trip, so I had no idea that it serves a critical role in our country. She explained that she works to prevent youth delinquency and protect children, and that her job requires that she listen to young people to include their needs and voices in policymaking, since they are often the ones with the most insight. I found her discussion of the uncertainty she felt as a teen intriguing. She revealed that she wanted to become a professional swimmer and never could have guessed that she would eventually have the career she has. 

A few hours later, as we talked to Rep. Panetta outside the Capitol, he revealed that he too was uncertain about what he wanted to do as a teen, and that he never could have guessed he would end up where he is today. When we arrived at the Capitol, he was in a press conference about the war in Ukraine. After the press conference, he spoke with us briefly, but his comments had a big effect on me. He stated that when he was young he worked in a fast food place and spent time interning in his district office. He said he has always liked to work and that he has worked hard at every job he has ever had. When asked how we can prepare ourselves for our future, he stated that the best thing you can do for yourself is to represent yourself well by working as hard as you can to be as good as you can at every job you have.

I found it fascinating that neither Liz Ryan nor Rep. Panetta had a clue what they wanted to do when they were my age, but they knew that they had to work hard to do anything significant. After hearing this I felt comforted. With the pressures of choosing and then attending a college just around the corner, I feel the need to take a moment to reflect on the idea that I too need to work hard. There is a balance between thinking five years ahead and working hard in the present, in order to have doors open for me five years from now.

Cy Harris

Yesterday, we spoke with Liz Ryan, Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Although the interview was short, I got a lot out of it. We spoke about her extensive background in juvenile justice, which unfortunately involves juvenile injustice. Her focus throughout the many campaigns and advocacy jobs she has worked has been to educate people and “lift up their voices,” which in turn creates opportunities and ensures that children are treated as children. There is a great deal of research on the effects incarceration has on children, but she points out that there is a “Grand Canyon” between what we know and what we actually do for these children. It’s outrageous. 

Incarcerating children, which has negative social, psychological, and economic effects on them when they become adults, can literally ruin their lives. Youth who spend time behind bars are more likely to develop mental health and substance abuse problems, and they are more likely to remain in the criminal justice system as adults. Furthermore, studies have shown that 65-70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have preexisting mental health issues. We cannot continue this vicious cycle of youth incarceration. Ryan argues that providing people with education provides them with power. Adults and children alike need to advocate for change in the juvenile justice system, which means adolescents must be allowed to make mistakes as they grow. She thus fights to provide young people with incarceration alternatives, opportunities, support, resources, and justice. Her words are shocking, but they have given me an appreciation for those who fight to improve our unfair and biased criminal justice system.

A Nation Without Its Youth Has No Future

Ona Musoll-Buendia

You never know what or who you’ll encounter in this town. We were scheduled to do a meet and greet with Rep. Panetta, but when we arrived at the Capitol to meet him he was speaking in a press briefing about the International Criminal Court’s charges against Vladimir Putin. However, the event turned out to be a great learning opportunity. Rep. Panetta’s scheduler, Alexa, let us through so that we could stand with the press. Rep. Panetta was joined by Rep. Don Bacon, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova.

The purpose of the press briefing was to bring attention to Russia’s taking Ukrainian children back to Russia. Oksana Markarova described how by taking away Ukraine’s children, Putin is taking away part of their country, because a nation without its youth has no future. This idea particularly affected me, as it is horribly cruel to take children from their families, especially since Putin is trying to take back a country that rightfully gained its independence in 1991. Ukraine has a rich culture, and I’m hopeful that Russia does not succeed in destroying it. 

As the press briefing ended, we made our way to the steps of the Capitol, where Shannon explained that this is the first time in history that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for the leader of such a large country and that this is a very big deal. Not only were we fortunate to witness such a historic moment, but we were fortunate to stumble upon such a great learning opportunity.

Anya Gonzalez

Before our meet and greet with Rep. Jimmy Panetta today, we were fortunate to attend a press brief on the Ukraine War. With the Capitol in the background, Rep. Panetta, Rep. Bacon, Sen. Klobuchar, and Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S, discussed the International Criminal Court’s charges against Vladimir Putin for his kidnapping of Ukrainian children, as well as Panetta and Bacon’s House resolution in support of the ICC.

As they spoke, I felt sorrow and anger. Prior to the press conference, I had been aware of the invasion of Ukraine, but I was unaware of Putin’s atrocious scheme to take children from Ukraine to bring them to Russia. Throughout the brief, I learned that only 306 out of the 16,000 Ukrainian children who have been taken from their families have been returned to their homes. Rep. Bacon accused Putin of “ripping them from their sunflowers, from their culture, and from their blue and yellow flag.” Later, after our short conversation with Rep. Panetta, I learned that by taking these children from their families and indoctrinating them into Russian culture, Russia is attempting to strip them of their Ukrainian identity, thus “breaking apart the Ukrainian country.”

Reflecting on this experience, I came to an epiphany. While it is easy to focus on issues relating directly to me and my country, international issues are just as significant. Witnessing this press briefing first hand inspired me to learn more and work to solve issues on an international scale in general. More specifically, I want to advocate for issues that are important to me. As Judge Friedman told us earlier in the day, I may not yet have a vote, but I do have a voice that I can use to advocate for myself, my country, and my world.

Cooper Padilla

Congressman Jimmy Panetta met us on the stairs of the Capitol today so we could talk to him and ask him a few questions. He had just finished a press conference regarding the kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Russian forces. It was exciting to see him in real life because I have seen his face on signs and posters all over Santa Cruz. I could tell that he is an experienced politician by the confident way that he carries himself. Talking to him was very interesting, but I was disappointed that we didn’t get to interview him formally, because I have several questions I would love to hear him answer. 

The first thing he spoke about was the importance of public service and why selfless work for the good of others is beneficial. I already knew that he had served in the military, so I asked him if that was his first job in public service. He impressed me with his response. He described the various public service jobs he held before and after the military, including working in restaurants as a waiter, doing maintenance work, doing cleaning work on a fishing ship off the coast of Alaska, and a number of other hard jobs. 

Not only was I impressed and motivated by the things he had to say, but I learned a valuable lesson from him that applies to my life right now while I begin thinking about college and my future. He said it is all right not to know exactly what you want to do yet. There are many decisions and challenges that I will face in life, but they don’t all have to be faced at once, so there is no need to stress too much about the future. He emphasized the idea that the best way to decide what you truly want to do is to try everything and see what you like. He also emphasized the idea of becoming good at whatever you do as a way of building character: “Be the best at everything you do, no matter what.” Every job is important, and working hard is the best way to move up and succeed. I am determined to always remember what he said and put it into practice in my own life.