Last night a Special News Breaking Report briefly interrupted a TV program that I was watching. But my annoyance over the interruption soon turned to joy when the camera showed colleagues of Rep. Gabrielle (Gabby) Gifford welcoming her back to the floor of the House of Representatives with a standing ovation. This occurred seven months after Gabby was shot in the head outside a grocery store during a meeting with her constituents in Arizona. Although I never met the congresswoman, I was very happy to see her back on her feet.
For over a decade I worked in government relations offices as an administrative staff member. That’s a crafty way of saying that I was basically a paper-shuffler and gofer sometimes with impressive sounding job titles. However, a highlight of my job was that it enabled me to meet and greet some of Washington’s political movers and shakers.
Because one of the responsibilities of my position required that I occasionally attend Congressional hearings, fundraisers, receptions and other political events, this former political junky had the privilege of meeting many elected heavyweights among them the late Senator Edward Kennedy, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and the current President of the United States Barack Obama. One of my most prized mementoes is a picture taken with Mr. Obama.
The District of Columbia is the political capital of the United States. It is a place where name dropping and socializing with politicians presents a unique opportunity for an apprentice to land a dream job or elevate his or her career. The hope of landing a job in a congressional or senate office is the reason that many aspiring interns and college graduates high-tail it to our Nation’s Capital at first opportunity. Even when the country is in a recession, there are jobs to be found on Capitol Hill. Aside from presenting an impressive GPA or resume, the best thing that a neophyte with an eye on a Hill job can do upon arriving in Washington is establish connections or network with people who have them.
I did not pursue a career that would have me rubbing shoulders with political leaders and lobbyists. I arrived in that environment strictly as a job seeker looking for employment in any field. And although I do not miss silently fuming about the apparent cronyism and other questionable practices of some, I often long for the excitement of the political milieu.
While I am now far removed from that arena I, like many of Gabby’s congressional colleagues, grew teary-eyed while watching her being applauded and embraced on the House floor as she arrived to cast her vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Her showing of obvious God-given strength and perseverance reminded me of the words of Helen Reddy’s song, “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”