Saturday, July 18, 2015

SPS 2015: Final Banquet

For some years at the St. Albans School of Public Service Final Banquet, a tradition has emerged in which the students make toasts -- to the experience; to the faculty and staff; and, most of all, to each other.  A few themes emerged from this year's SPS Final Banquet toasts -- SPS '15 has learned not just by talking but by listening; was inspired not just by teachers or speakers, but by each other; and values and remembers their four weeks in Washington D.C. at St. Albans.

Friday, July 17, 2015

SPS 2015: Mock Congressional Debate

Throughout the course of the session, the students of the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2015 worked in small groups on a mock legislation project.  Initially, they played the roles of private "issue advocacy groups": groups seeking to promote a policy change (in the areas of energy, immigration, social security, firearms, health care, and education) by drafting legislation, lining up "Congressional" support, issuing a "press release" and holding "press conferences" on behalf of their proposed legislation.  On the final full day of the SPS session, SPS '15 changed hats and became U.S. Senators debating each of the six bills.  The debate was lively and entertaining, and showed that SPS '15 not only knew their stuff but may have a future in politics if they choose!

SPS '15: Two Out of Three -- Not Bad!

Well . . . we weren't able to schedule a visit with President Obama yesterday.  But, on the bright side, we covered the other two branches of federal government.  The students of the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2015 started off the day yesterday with a visit to the United States Supreme Court (see top photo below on the Supreme Court steps).  We started with a guided tour of the majestic (44 foot ceiling!) Court Chamber in which the Justices hear cases and read out opinions.  No photos, so it was great to be able to see this historic room in person.  We then had the privilege of a private Q&A session with Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who was kind enough to speak to the SPS '15 students and field their questions about the legal system and the role of the U.S. Supreme Court within our government.

After a break for lunch at D.C. favorites The Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza, SPS '15 was back on the move -- from the Court to Congress.  We met with Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who fielded the wide-ranging questions from our very politically astute group.
With SPS '15 on the Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court

On the steps of the Cannon Building of Congress

Waiting for our meeting with the Congressman

They look pretty comfortable -- maybe a few future Members of Congress in this crowd?

Chilling on the Hill

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SPS '15: Mock Press Conferences for Issue Advocacy Group Project

During the course of the four weeks at the St. Albans School of Public Service, SPS '15 has been working in small groups throughout the session as "issue advocacy groups" advocating legislative reform/change in six substantive areas: social security; firearms; education; health care; immigration; and energy.  Each group chose a policy they wanted to promote; drafted mock federal legislation to effectuate their policy choice; wrote a press conference promoting their legislation; and, over the last two days, held a "press conference" (with their SPS classmates playing members of the media) to promote their legislation.  On the final full day of the program, SPS '15 will "switch hats" from an issue advocacy group to become members of Congress debating the six bills.
The Social Security issue advocacy group "meets the press"

Reporter Ethan posing a question to the press briefers

Justin explains a finer point of the bill

Reporter Patrick asks a follow up question

The Social Security group at the podium during their "press conference"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

SPS '15: Game Night!

What do you do on a night when torrential rain, high winds, and hail are predicted in DC?  Game night!  While part of the group watched the movie "Charlie Wilson's War," the rest of SPS '15 tested their wits in games of Catchphrase and their nerves in some high stakes Jenga.