Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Visit to Washington, D.C.

By Karen Villatoro, Second-Year MBA student

I consider myself really fortunate to be part of the group of KD students attending a Business and Public Policy course at the Washington Campus in D.C.

Whether we are well aware of this or not, there are key policy issues being developed in Washington on a daily basis, and these policies are likely to have a considerable impact on the businesses we own or work for, so it’s of paramount importance that we gain a better understanding of how our government works and how we can participate in the policy making process.

The course Business and Public Policy: How Washington works and what issues really matter, accomplishes just that objective: it’s teaching us how the government works, why we should care about it, and how we can take action to be effective participants in the process.
Our teachers this week have been an impressive array of Washington characters. We have heard from lobbyists, former congressmen, former White House officers, senior vice presidents from well-respected think tanks, and current staff directors working on committees from the House of Representatives, just to name a few.

All of these people are true Washington insiders who provide a unique perspective on how things are done in our nation’s capital. You may agree or disagree with their particular point of view; but without a doubt it is extremely valuable to hear their insights, and we have heard some really candid feedback, so you can form your own opinion.

I came in with some preconceived notions that have been blown away during these few days. I used to think a lobbyist was a synonym for an individual who was up to no good; this couldn’t be farther from reality! I have heard that the act of lobbying is actually protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, where it allows for “… the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”

I also used to think the Executive Branch was the most powerful branch of government, but I have come to realize most of the power actually resides with Congress. From appropriation of funds to the ability to declare war, there are so many things the Executive Branch couldn’t possibly do unless Congress takes specific actions. Similarly, I have learned that most of the work Congress does takes place at the Committee level, so you really need to know who is the Chairman and who are the members of the key Committees that are more likely to have jurisdiction over your industry, and thus have a large probability of impacting your business operations.

We even had the opportunity to see the government in action, by attending a Senate session in the Capitol. We had gallery passes that allowed us to watch the action in the Senate Chamber. There were just a few Senators on the floor, given that most of their work takes place outside of the chamber, but their staff is always monitoring the action on the floor so Senators can go to the chamber when there’s a call to cast votes on the issues being discussed. 

And what stay in Washington would be complete without a visit to the Washington Monument and all the memorials in West Potomac Park? At each one of these sites there are always people trying to take in all the history and significance behind these memorials, and reflecting on the thoughts and actions of great leaders who have helped build this nation.