During the fall of 2017, I participated in the Stanford in Washington program in Washington, D.C. During my quarter on the East Coast, I had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference held in October at Northeastern University.
The conference featured several distinguished speakers including President Clinton, Chelsea Clinton (’01), Paul Farmer, and Madeline Albright. One of the panels featured Stanford alumnus Joe Kennedy III (’03), the current representative for Massachusetts’ fourth congressional district. Sharing the stage with the president and former classmate Chelsea Clinton, Kennedy spoke about the opioid crisis and the need for young leaders to take action. Inspired by his talk and call to action, I reached out to the Congressman directly and was fortunate to have a one-on-one with Kennedy III to learn more about his background and path to Congress.
Walking through the grand hallways of the Cannon building in the House of Representatives filled me with an overwhelming sense of awe and appreciation for the representative system we have in the United States. Having the opportunity to speak with a representative was a unique experience that made me feel more engaged with our democratic governance system.
The conversation I had with Kennedy was equally as inspiring as his talk at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference. While our time was short due to his busy schedule, we discussed an array of topics, first starting with his background and path into politics. He clearly emphasized the importance of his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic after graduating Stanford. As he said, he draws upon the skills that he learned during this time every day. Living in another country and meeting people from other nationalities offers you a broader awareness and appreciation that is necessary for understanding the global community. He described fondly playing soccer with children in his local community and coming to the realization that humanity is present everywhere you look.
During this reflection, he mentioned how the Peace Corps was a valuable experience because it took him out of his comfort zone. This not only allowed him to grow, but it also broadened his perspectives. Inspired by his observations of the legal system, he became passionate about law and decided to apply for law school. This was his beginning into a political career, and a career designed towards helping others live a better life in the United States.
As a senior considering what my future might hold, having the chance to speak with someone as accomplished as this congressman was inspiring. His lesson to take advantage of the opportunities that you can only do as a recent graduate—such as the Peace Corps—is something that I will keep in mind when considering future plans, for it is these types of experiences which broaden your perspective. Having the chance to meet with Congressman Kennedy was a highlight of my time in DC, and I am grateful for his time and advice.