In 2004, Craig McPherson ’06 was drawn to the Washington Program. As a PPE/Government double major participating in the Program might seem a natural extension of McPherson’s interests – but it was more utilitarian than just that.
“From deep study of the philosophical origins of our system of government to the more crass practical politics of the interplay of elected officials, think tanks, interest groups and the media, a CMC government major has a better understanding than most of the moving parts that make our government function,” he says. “The Washington Program gave a real life opportunity to put into use what we were learning in the classroom.”
After graduating from CMC, McPherson earned a law degree from George Mason University Law School in Arlington, VA. And then it was quick step into the political world where he currently represents Kansas’ 8th House District in the Kansas House of Representatives where he serves as Vice Chairman of the House General Government Budget Committee and as a member of the House Energy and Environment Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State. McPherson is in his second term (4th year) serving in the legislature. Since the legislature in Kansas meets part time, McPherson also maintains a legal practice.
“During my time in the Washington Program, I was very busy: working an internship that was more than full time and maintaining a course load on top of that,” he remembers. “The Washington Program taught us all to perform at a high level of professionalism and decorum even under tremendous pressure.”
According to McPherson, as a young undergraduate in the Program he had the invaluable opportunity to research and write briefs that would be used by cabinet level secretaries and even the President and Vice-President of the United States.
“While it was certainly humbling to be a part of something so much greater than myself, it was also a great lesson in how much difference any individual can make, and how much our country is still dependent upon those individuals,” he says. “I think these experiences helped to shape my perspective and made it more likely that I would myself eventually run for elected office.”
It was also during the Program that McPherson learned a valuable life lesson – one that he’s never forgotten.
“Several friends and I were riding on the subway when someone suggested, somewhat in jest, that we should just spontaneously take off for New York on Friday night and come back on Saturday morning,” he says. “We kind of laughed at the idea, but then one of our instructors who had overheard the discussion chimed in, encouraging us to do it. She suggested that in life you will always remember those opportunities you pursue, but have no memory of those opportunities you forego. We made the trip, and she was right; that silly, purposeless trip sticks out as one of my fondest memories of the semester.”
McPherson also came away from the Program with a few verities that are valuable in any setting:
“Always use both your first and last name when you introduce yourself at receptions,” he says. “This and other similar basic professional skills engrained through the Washington semester define the difference between it and other experiences during college. The Washington Program really gave us all a jump start into being independent adult leaders, able to seamlessly interact in a professional environment.”
In McPherson’s view, the greatest value of the Washington Program lies not in the individual work that one might be doing in a particular internship (although that is important), but in the combined experiences of the entire class.
“The Washington Program puts together a group of young students making meaningful contributions throughout the system and on either side of the partisan divide,” McPherson says. “Classroom discussions in the evening are informed by these highly engaged, highly intelligent students relaying the experiences they are having during the days. Instantly, a participant’s breath of understanding grows by the cumulative experiences of his peers. And many of those peers are today scattered through the high echelons of government and politics.”