The initial foray into the universe of Capitol Hill puts anyone at the bottom of a steep learning curve. The closest parallel I can draw, barring state legislatures, is Silicon Valley; there, it’s assumed that everyone is required to speak and understand the same tech-based language that can only be learned once one is there. In this regard, the mentorship Running Start has provided has been invaluable. However, one unexpected character and professional development piece that I am grateful for comes from the bipartisan household and the commitment Running Start has to closing the partisan divide. In this environment, I have become increasingly aware of how my political viewpoints had been developed in a vacuum of like-minded people up until this point. The healthy discussions from opposing parties have challenged my knowledge in topics that I originally thought I was well versed in.
I remember seeing Cokie Roberts speak last fall on bipartisanship and discuss the days when elected Republicans and Democrats were friends, their children were friends, and their spouses were friends. This statement camped out in the back of my mind for the past year and has suddenly come to the forefront. These relationships outside of the political realm foster respect between people that then has a domino effect from the personal to the professional platform. This appreciation for differences is twofold as it comprises of an element of esteem on a personal level and one on an intellectual level. Living with women with opposing political affiliations: before anything, we cook, watch television, and connect personally. Then, when the political box is opened, there is a preexisting relational foundation that anchors the way we compose ourselves and generate our responses. This may be out of respect for the other person, or simply because we know we have to live together. Though in our case it is the former, if it were the latter, I have started to think that this type of discipline would be beneficial in the current political climate. For example, I found myself holding back snide comments during the presidential debates. Though such comments are welcome at the right place with the right crowd, learning to practice self-control in regards to partisanship is a skill I had generally abandoned and I value the spotlight it has taken in this experience.
– Jessica Gibson, Star Fellow Fall 2012