“I had an interest in politics and the program was a chance to learn about government and politics in the most powerful city in the world since, in my opinion, Washington D.C. is basically the strongest seat of government in the world,” says Kevin Arnold ’90 about the reasons that drew him to participate in the Washington Program in January 1989. “It also was first time I lived outside of the Los Angeles area, and I had some cousins living in D.C. including one that I stayed with during my time there. Capitol Hill itself was a draw. I had an opportunity to intern at different office for a national nonprofit organization, but I wanted to work on Capitol Hill and I was glad I did.”
Arnold, a Government/Political Science Major at CMC, remembered his first workday in the Program as nothing if not auspicious. “My first day working at the House Republican Research Committee, then chaired by Duncan Hunter, was the inauguration ceremony of George H. W. Bush,” he says. “Office staffers gave us interns special access passes to the inauguration ceremony outside. None of the staffers went with us. We went outside for a bit and then came back inside to escape the cold and watch it on TV.”
We asked Arnold a few questions about what it was like being in the Program during those halcyon days.
Q: What skill set did you gain from participation in the Program that helped you in your academic or work career?
KA: Researching various issues while I was there, I wanted to understand the different sides of the issues even though the research committee started the basis for republican legislation and policy. I liked listening to speakers talk "around an issue" and seeing the different sides of an issue no matter which side you may be advocating for. I got the opportunity to attend various open committee hearings and closed committee meetings with pointed Q&A. You'd see witnesses or speakers adroitly skip the focus of a question to give their comfortable answer which often addressed the issue they way the speaker wanted, but it often didn't answer the actual question. Now as an attorney in court, I can move to strike a nonresponsive answer and have the person directed to answer my question rather than discuss what is comfortable for them. I learned to be a better listener, to recognize differing angles of an issue, and how to follow-up with pointed questions when a speaker “gives you the slip.”
Q: Can you give a brief synopsis of your career/life after graduating from CMC?
KA: I'm an attorney, currently finishing up International and Comparative Sports Law LL. M from St. John's University in Queens, NY which took me from general law practice in Houston, TX for many years, to living in NYC, then working in Brazil on sports law matters specifically related to football (soccer). I have been licensed here in CA, TX and should soon be admitted in New York. I also have been a high school basketball referee for the last few years in Texas and California. That allows me to stay involved in sports and working with kids.
Q: Do you feel that participation in the Program helped you to get where you are today in your life/career?
KA: It probably has for many of the things I detailed in my other answers. I'm always trying to learn new things and apply them to my life in a positive way. The Program has affected my approach to mediating disputes or dealing with people and trying to reach a compromise even when at first glance I may not see much common ground between the parties of a case. Like a Representative at a committee hearing who wants to be heard on the record and then yield back the balance of their time. Often a legal client just wants their position to be heard because most everyone has a story they would like to share. Sometimes a client's full story or background may not be necessary for the specific legal work I need to do, but other times you learn some key detail that the client did not even realize was important, but if you hadn't let them share their story or their comments in more detail then I would not have learned about key information.
Q: What is your fondest memory that you gained during your participation in the Program?
KA: Some of the people I interacted with there; walking the Mall and seeing many of the monuments with current girlfriend at the time; Pete Thum, who I knew from Stags football, making a comment about D.C. trees that is slightly humorous to me today considering his work with water conservation; being seated on the actual floor of the House for a speech by Representative William Gray; the office research we were instructed to find for rap song lyrics when the New York City Central Park jogger sexual assault case broke with news of the “wilding” teenagers who we now know were wrongfully convicted and exonerated years later. That led to me conducting more research on criminal justice reform ideas that could be used for the Republican leadership. Walking the halls of Congress from one GOP representative's office to another just to see if certain representatives would sign off to sponsor a bill that could eventually come up for a floor vote.
Q: What is the most valuable thing that you remember learning during your stint in the Program?
KA: As a college student working on Capitol Hill take advantage of the early evening committee hearings, fundraisers, networking events or cocktail parties. Many days at the end of a work day, the different committees may have some type of meet and greet and sometimes me and few other interns would pick one gathering just for the free food and drinks or we would go to multiple meetings until we had our fill. If they still have those open meetings, they are great places to meet and network with other staffers, even legislators in more social settings which can lead to new opportunities. I was able connect with my local Representative and ended up working for Rep. Julian Dixon for the summer after the Program finished.
I didn't realize how separate the Houses of Congress were until I worked there. The House of Representatives and the Senate have separated everything and the Senate side is different atmosphere from the House side. At work, I probably had 2 or 3 instances where I had to go across to the Senate side. You'd think there was more day to day interaction between House and Senate, but there was much less mixing than I thought.
Q: What in your view is the true value of the Washington Program (i.e., why should CMC students be eager to participate in it).
KA: When you have an opportunity to go to a new locale, to work, study, learn or contribute, then you should consider that experience. It may give you a good appreciation for others' culture and a perspective about life and places that you didn't have before. Obviously if you are interested in being involved in national politics then the Washington D.C. program is a no-brainer. The people you meet and interact with are invaluable. To sit in committee meetings and attend numerous hearings of actual elected representatives discussing policy issues that I had been researching was something I will not forget. If you are interested in national politics, just understanding the city, its layout, and seeing how the government functions on a day to day level is something you eventually will need to learn about.