Alumni News

Congressional leaders meet with Liberty students, alumni in Washington, D.C.

July 19, 2017 : By Tobi Walsh Laukaitis/Liberty University News Service

Despite a busy day on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, a U.S. senator and several congressional leaders took time to speak to more than 50 Liberty University students, alumni, faculty, and staff during a reception held in the Cannon House Office Building.

Speakers included House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and Reps. Trey Gowdy (SC-4), Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), and Tom Garrett (VA-5), as well as Sen. James Lankford (OK). The reception was hosted by Liberty’s new Center for Law & Government, Liberty University School of Law, Helms School of Government, and the university’s Washington Fellowship program, which places Liberty students from all majors in internships throughout the nation’s capital.

"I was pleased that Liberty’s Center for Law & Government was able to work with the Washington Fellowship to host this meeting between our Liberty students and our nation's top Congressional leaders in a virtual one-on-one setting at the U.S. Capitol,” said former U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt, executive director of the Center for Law & Government. “I was so impressed with the students' direct engagement with these leaders on questions of national and international importance. This is exactly the type of experience that our Center seeks to promote as we best prepare these young people for lives of good citizenship and great statesmanship."

Liberty currently has more than 30 students completing summer internships and another 11 students through the Washington Fellowship. Examples include positions with the House of Representatives, the Family Research Council, and the American Psychological Association. Liberty Law also has 11 students completing externships — the most it has hosted during a summer semester.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy and Gowdy both shared their advice to students who are hoping to start their careers in D.C. and took time to answer questions.

McCarthy said one of the main lessons he hoped students take away from their time in Washington is how valuable a tool compromise can be.

"Our government is not one-sided; you're going to have compromises," he said. "Compromise is not a bad word. You should go in and fight for your principles and philosophy. But if you think that you’re going to get 100 percent of anything, you're not going to be successful."

Gowdy shared about the importance of disagreeing with others in a civil way and heeded students not to see winning as the ultimate objective. He also said that though there is virtue in public service and that students with that desire should pursue that calling, there are many other people who make a difference in our lives.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-4)

"The notion that the only way you can change the world is to be a candidate for something and be involved in politics or government — don’t buy into that," he said. “When young people tell me that they want to change the world, my response is always the same: go teach or be a good parent or be a good spouse."

Students also got to hear from a Liberty graduate who has gained success in D.C. – alumna Sheria Clarke (’03), who now serves as the new staff director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Gowdy.

The reception left its mark on the students. In a little black notebook, senior Elizabeth Collins wrote down a quote: "It's better to be a good guy with a bad idea rather than a bad person with a good idea."

That quote was a piece of advice Gowdy said that McCarthy had told him about life in politics.

Collins, who is studying international relations, is serving as a researcher in her internship with the Embassy of Israel this summer.

"I thought today was valuable,” Collins said of the reception. "Something that really stuck with me is how Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Gowdy shared how important their relationships were and how they impacted each other."

Collins said her classes at Liberty helped her gain important experience and skills that she is using in her summer internship.

"All of our professors brought in different people to speak to us in class," she said. "I felt like we had the chance to learn about many worldviews. It really prepares you for life in D.C."