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How much would you pay for lunch with a Kennedy, a private meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Labor and an all-access pass to the political annals of the nation’s capital?
Forty-one undergraduates, currently in Washington, D.C., only had to shell out $50 to participate in an Institute of Politics (IOP) program that has put them in close contact with national leaders. The inaugural visit—which began Sunday and ends today—marks the debut of what the IOP hopes will become an annual pilgrimage.
“[The program] began as a collaboration between staff and students,” said Ilan T. Graff ’05, president of the IOP Student Affairs Committee. “We were looking for ways to get students on campus engaged in politics in a way they hadn’t been before.”
The new program attracted both seasoned campus politicos and relative newcomers to the IOP.
Annika L. Giesbrecht ’07, who only recently became involved with the IOP, said she is visiting Washington for the first time.
She said she was overwhelmed by the entire experience.
“We’ve been able to do things that I think I would never have been able to do,” she said.
Students split into three groups yesterday morning and each contingent met with a different segment of the political community.
One group of students met with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., followed by a guided tour of the private chambers and floor of the Senate.
The second focused on the reporting side of politics, hearing from Albert Eisley, editor of The Hill—a Washington weekly devoted to political coverage. These students were then given a guided tour of the Senate Press Gallery led by current IOP fellow and Hill columnist Lynn Sweet.
The third group of students talked with high-ranking officials at the Democratic National Committee.
The students then reunited for a lunch with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56, D-Mass., followed by a walk to the Department of Labor and a talk with Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
“The senator was very much impressed with the quality of the students and thought the questions were great,” said Kennedy spokesperson David Smith.
Kennedy, who sits on the senior advisory board of the IOP, regularly meets with Harvard students in Washington, according to Smith.
The itinerary was put together through the IOP’s various contacts in Washington—former fellows, advisers, guest speakers and other affiliates of the Kennedy School of Government organization.
“We’ve been planning it for several months,” IOP spokesperson Andy I. Solomon ’89 said. “It’s been a tag team effort on the part of IOP staff as well as students.”
While students are only handing over $50 for this three-day Washington experience, the trip will cost the IOP between $300 and $350 per student, according to Solomon. Under these estimates, the IOP could pay more than $12,000 for the excursion.
Organizers said they posted information about the trip to various open lists, and received nearly 100 responses. Students were eventually chosen by lottery.
Today’s itinerary includes an early morning breakfast with prominent Washington journalists and former IOP fellows. The students will then visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before hitting the road for the eight-hour return trip to Cambridge.
—Staff writer Michael M. Grynbaum can be reached at email@example.com.
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