Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Brandon Wong.
I last left off with my plans for attending CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Maryland. Boy, was that fun! Out of the 4 days it was around (Wednesday-Saturday), I was present for 3 of them. On Thursday, I got to meet my favorite Senator and presidential hopeful, Rand Paul. Senator Paul holds a special place in my heart because I think he’s trying to take the Republican Party in a slightly different direction, which is what needs to happen if the Grand Old Party ever wants to take back the White House. On Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a reception hosted by James O’Keefe, the conservative film documentarian. For those unfamiliar with Mr. O’Keefe, he is the young man that ventured across the U.S.-Mexico border dressed as Osama bin Laden to bring greater attention to the security of the border. Finally, I spent Saturday volunteering for RAND PAC (Senator Paul’s Political Action Committee) and acquainting myself with some of the exhibitions. One booth was hosting an organization called Right on Crime, a part of the Texas Public Policy Institute that seeks to formulate policies that address the growing problem of criminal justice from a conservative perspective. I’m incredibly interested in the conservative reform movement, so it was great to hear from some of the folks who are out on the front lines getting their voices (and policies) heard by politicians. Overall, I’m happy I was able to attend; CPAC was an excellent experience for a young conservative like myself!
The weekend afterward, my friend David came to visit. David is a fourth year Berkeley student like me, and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him since my very first semester. In fact, we lived together in the same dorm! I suppose it’s true that the very first people you meet at college will be your friends for life! Although David was only here for less than 48 hours, I got to give him a grand tour of the District: he got to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; visit the Newseum; take pictures in front of the White House; build a snowman outside of the Washington Monument; stand in awe in front of the Lincoln Memorial; see a Wizards basketball game; and experience local cuisine at Founding Farmers, a sustainable, organic restaurant. That was a weekend I’ll not soon forget.
About two week after that, I had the honor of accompanying my girlfriend Saba to help her decide which graduate school she should attend. My girlfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship since we both started college. She attended UC Irvine and graduated a year early, using that extra year to explore a career in social service and applying to graduate schools for social work. She was accepted to about 4 schools, but she narrowed her choices down to 2: University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Columbia. Both schools had welcome events last weekend, so she decided to make the trek to the East Coast and determine which of the two would be a better fit for her. We ended up making a long trip up to New York City from Philadelphia and back just to visit both schools. It was my first time visiting either city, and it was great that I got to see them both with her. For those wondering, she’s really leaning towards Penn.
As I write this, my younger brother Cameron is sitting next to me on the couch scrutinizing each word I write. Cameron is a Chemical Engineering major at UCI, and he decided that he wanted to spend our spring break week with me on the East Coast. We’ve done a great many things so far, and it’s only Tuesday! We’ll be spending the remainder of the week with our aunt and uncle, who live in northern Pennsylvania.
Last—though certainly not least—I recently had the honor of meeting Rep. Doris Matsui in one of the Cannon Building offices. I must say, Rep. Matsui is one of the sweetest and most genuine women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She spoke at length about her late husband—former Congressman Robert Matsui, whom she endearingly referred to as “Bob”—and the spirit of public service that he wanted to engender in folks my age. Along with a certificate for being selected to receive the Matsui Fellowship, Rep. Matsui also presented me with a book about her late husband. Once I return home, I will most certainly read it. In any case, I am honored to have met Rep, Matsui, and I sincerely hope that I am honoring Robert Matsui’s vision of public service.
Even though I’ve been doing all these fun things, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all just fun and games. On the academic side of things, my work is really starting to pick up. Both my Lobbying and Congress classes have substantial research papers due in April, and I’ve been writing and researching like a madman. In my Lobbying class, the paper has to be about a lobbying campaign that you would personally like to execute, with details on who you would lobby in Congress, the policy change you want, and all sorts of other moving parts. Due to my area of study at AEI, I’ve decided to take a look at better regulating for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix. In my Congress class, the final paper must be about a policy that you think Congress should consider enacting. Again, since I’ve been seeped in education for 32+ hours a week, I decided I would write about Income Share Agreements, a potentially more effective method to finance higher education. On the work side of things, it seems as though all of the education scholars want my time for help on their projects. I’m certainly happy to help, love the work, and am not complaining one bit, but I feel stretched thin at times. I wish I was more at liberty to explain what kinds of projects I’m working on, but unfortunately I must keep that to myself. What I will say is that our higher education team is working feverishly on a new publication that might change the way Americans regard college. Hopefully it does, so I can say I helped!
Brandon Wong is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying political science and public policy. He is currently interning with the American Enterprise Institute as a Matsui Washington Fellow.