Alumni Spotlight

2012 Alumnae (L-R) Mariam Ahmad, Amanda Patarino, Monica DiLeo and Molly Stoneman at the Annual United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA) Alumni Day during Washington Week.

New blog feature: the Alumni Spotlight

With a new class of USSYP delegates preparing to arrive in Washington, D.C. next month, what a perfect moment to share how life-changing the Washington Week experience can be. Our first Alumni Spotlight features Amanda Patarino (CO – 2012) who points to her USSYP experience as a turning point in her academic and professional trajectory. Read about her path since Washington Week and the fascinating work she is doing in the presidential transition process. Stay tuned for more “Alumni Spotlights” in the weeks and months to come.

USSYP: What is your current role? What are your activities in that role?

Amanda: I am a research associate at the Partnership for Pubic Service, in our Center for Presidential Transition. In this role, I do data analysis, conduct interviews to document the transition process, work on data management on the federal workforce, help to create data visualizations, and my biggest project right now is managing the Washington Post Appointee Tracker. We are tracking 690 of the top Senate-confirmed positions that President Trump needs to fill in real time as they are nominated and undergo hearings in the Senate. Each day I learn something new about the appointments process, appointment types, or even term lengths.

USSYP: What does your organization do?

Amanda: The Partnership for Pubic Service is a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to make the federal government more effective for the American people. We have a few major work streams, including employee engagement, leadership development, federal hiring, government reform, and presidential transition.

USSYP: How have your goals changed or even evolved as a result of your recent work experiences?

Amanda: Before I worked at the Partnership, I always believed that the only way to change the government was from the inside out. The Partnership showed me very quickly that that is not true. I am committed to breaking the cycle of partisanship in our country and I’ve learned about different processes and strategies while working at the Partnership. Working on the presidential transition has also given me unique expertise and I would love to be involved with more transitions in the future.

USSYP: How did USSYP impact your current path?


Amanda: USSYP was my first time in Washington D.C. and my parents always say they knew when they put me on that plane that I was never coming home. I absolutely fell in love with the city, not just because we were getting the insider view of D.C., but because I saw firsthand all of the problems out there to solve and the program itself showed that you can take a large group of diverse individuals with completely different backgrounds and beliefs and they can come together to find more in common.

USSYP also led me to Senator Cory Gardner, who has played a big role in my path. I introduced then-Congressman Gardner at a luncheon on the Hill during Washington Week 2012 and since then I have interned in his office on the Hill and worked on his campaign for the Senate. I’ve met some great, committed public servants through these experiences and further defined my goals and interests. I admire Senator Gardner as an extremely successful fellow alum, but also as a great representative of my home state.

USSYP: Where are you from? How has this influenced you?

Amanda: I’m from Lakewood, Colorado, right outside of Denver. Growing up in Colorado definitely shaped my view of the world, especially in politics. Colorado has been viewed as a purple state for a long time and I grew up watching politicians from the two parties work together and compromise. Colorado has a big urban bloc of voters and a lot of rural voters. I saw early on that there are, of course, issues that we disagree on, but there are a lot more things that we see the same way.

USSYP: Where did you attend college? What were your academic and internship highlights?

Amanda: I graduated from George Mason University in May. My academic highlights were writing my thesis on primary systems and partisanship, working on research that linked both data science and government, and taking an economics class with Steve Pearlstein (Pulitzer prize-winning writer for the Washington Post). I also had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University and spend a summer learning Spanish in Granada.

My freshman year I was able to intern on the Hill for fellow USSYP alum then-Congressman Cory Gardner. I actually took off a semester in Fall 2014 to work as a field director back home in Colorado when Gardner was running for Senate, and we successfully elected him the second USSYP alum to the Senate. That was a great moment—because I believe in him so much as a person and I have this great connection with him through USSYP.


USSYP: Looking back on USSYP, what was most memorable?

Amanda: Looking back on USSYP, there are so many moments that stick out, and especially living in D.C. now, I am often reminded of great memories from that week. More than anything though, I think meeting then-Congressman Cory Gardner was inspiring because he talked about USSYP being his first time in D.C., his first time surrounded by so many people his age who were interested in the same things he was, and I was feeling exactly that way. That was the moment when I thought, “Wow, I can really become someone in Washington, D.C. I am going to make a change here.”

USSYP: How did you become involved in the United States Senate Youth Alumni Association (USSYAA)?

Amanda: Going to school near D.C. in Fairfax, Virginia, it was important to me to attend the annual reunions (and host my fellow classmates who came into town). Last year, I met the incoming USSYAA President, Colonel Michael Gonzales and had a great discussion with him about professional development and where he saw the USSYAA going. A few months later he called to ask if I would be interested in serving on the board and I became the secretary. It’s a great way to keep connected with other alumni and arrange the events that keep us all coming back to D.C.

USSYP: What are you involved in outside of your work?

Amanda: Outside of work, I serve on the USSYAA board and as a member of the George Mason University young alumni program, Golden Quill Society. I also play soccer, run, and do yoga. I try to donate blood once a month and I am involved in organ donation awareness because it’s an issue close to my heart.

USSYP: We love hearing about USSYP reunions. Do you have any favorite anecdotes of reuniting with fellow delegates since the program?


Amanda: To this day, my fellow 2012 USSYP classmates are some of my best friends. Quite a few of us went to school in the D.C. area, but now that many of us have graduated, there’s about 15 of us who live here, and I’ve been working to organize monthly happy hours so we can meet up and talk about what everyone is up to, reminisce about our Washington Week and discuss current events.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit lots of my classmates and even spent 24 hours in Berlin with one while we were both studying abroad! We may have only spent one week together, but Washington Week was an experience that only the people who were there with me fully understand. It played a huge role in who I am today.


Photos courtesy of Amanda Patarino


The USSYP Ambassador Lunch: A Diplomat’s Perspective

USSYP 2016

German Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig, keynote speaker at the most recent United States Senate Youth Program Ambassador luncheon, has been playing a key role amid significant political upheaval since his March 2016 speech.

The early summer vote in the United Kingdom to separate from the European Union has changed the political landscape, and Ambassador Wittig has become a calming voice highlighting the necessity of international collaboration to tackle global issues such as trade, fiscal policy and the refugee crisis. His Washington Post Global Opinion column on the issue was published on September 14. He affirmed that “Germany Stands By Its Commitment In The Refugee Crisis,” in Huffington Post days later on September 17.

Ambassador Wittig addressed the 2016 USSYP class at the historic Anderson House, home to America’s Society of the Cincinnati. The richly decorated interior and the grand staircase showcasing 14th century Venice in José Villegas Cordero’s The Triumph of the Dogaressa created an unforgettable tableau for an afternoon focused on international diplomacy.


Ambassador Wittig shared experiences from more than three decades of foreign service as he addressed the attentive audience before him. He reflected on his early career, describing long meetings and late nights at the United Nations, saying that it was “Particularly rewarding to serve your country in those posts, shaping solutions to problems.” He characterized the German – American relationship as a “transatlantic engine,” noting that cooperation between the two nations is strong and multifaceted. He again championed this cooperation, in the realm of intelligence sharing, in a May 2016 article by intelligence expert David Ignatius.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

Ambassador Wittig described several shared challenges facing Germany and the U.S.,including transitioning to clean energy to alleviate climate change, incorporating immigrant and refugee populations into a diverse society, guarding against the rise of terrorism, and maintaining strong economies both at home and globally. Using the current migrant crisis as an example, he stated, “Only a joint approach will solve this crisis, a joint approach that addresses the root causes of the refugee influx, especially the war in Syria, the instability in the Middle East and other regions, improving the situation in refugee camps and supporting the transit countries in the region.”

His audience of high school juniors and seniors seized the opportunity to ask a first question about college affordability, comparing the differing systems in America and Germany. With a knowing nod, the ambassador responded. His own son, a high school senior, had been in the midst of the college application process, and he readily acknowledged the excellence of American higher education.

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

The USSYP annual Ambassador luncheon always highlights our global interconnectedness, and reveals a literal world of public service career opportunities. Ambassador Wittig’s closing words reminded his listeners that they are all ambassadors; that international partnership depends on “Thousands of people-to-people contacts and relationships, from students, to scholars and scientists, to cultural and social figures, to business and political leaders —  and these ties especially depend on you and how you and other young people fill them with life.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 5-12, 2016. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).


USSYP 2016

© Photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

The Alumni Insider’s View on Making the Most of a Congressional Office Internship

The U.S. Senate Youth Program encourages motivated and high-achieving young leaders to be directly involved in our participatory democracy. Countless delegates leave Washington Week wanting to get a deeper view into the workings of the legislative branch – either by returning to D.C. or working in their senator’s or representative’s state offices. We caught up with a few recent USSYP alumni who interned on Capitol Hill following their Washington Week experiences. Read on to get tips on how to find an internship and what life is like once you do!  

Many thanks to:

Ethan Cartwright (MS – 2013), intern for Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Monica Marciano (VA –  2016), intern for Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Maria Mendoza (NJ – 2015), intern for Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Samuel Miller (KY – 2015), intern for Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY-3rd District)

How did you secure your internship?   

Maria: I applied to be an intern in Senator Cory Booker’s New Jersey office for the summer following freshman year. I began the process through his website with an application that included personal information, a writing sample, a brief essay, a copy of my resume, and references. The process wasn’t too arduous, and the senator’s staff was incredibly helpful whenever I called in for a clarification. A few weeks later, I was interviewed by the staff and later notified that I received the internship. A major concern of mine was funding, particularly because my university requires a student contribution for tuition regardless of aid status. I was able to find a stipend opportunity at my university’s Institute of Politics and get the matter sorted before starting my internship. I highly recommend potential public service interns look into similar opportunities at their respective campuses!

miller-interns-blog-iiSamuel: I was interested in interning during the summer following my freshman year. The application process involved contacting my Congressman John Yarmuth’s office for the required forms, sending in a resume and cover letter, and conducting a phone interview with the one of the congressman’s staff members. Efforts to reach out are important, but I tried to strike a balance between showing interest and overloading the office with emails. For me, it took four months from first contacting the office in November to receiving a decision in February. Even after I was accepted, I made sure to respond promptly to any inquiries from the office leading up to the start date. For the interview, I tried to predict the questions in advance so that I would be better prepared. During the interview, I highlighted why my district was special to me, my past experience with leadership positions, and why public service motivates me.

What was a typical day like for you?      

Ethan: Serving as an intern for Senator Wicker during my spring semester of junior year, I had a wide range of responsibilities. As the intern assigned to the senator’s executive assistant and scheduler, my typical responsibilities consisted of assisting in fielding meeting requests from constituents and lobbyists, arranging the senator’s calendar, booking (and often troubleshooting) his travel and maintaining his records. However, no two days on the job were ever alike. Since the senator’s time is a premium commodity, scheduling staff must always remain flexible and should learn to expect that things will not go according to plan!

Maria: I was based in Senator Booker’s New Jersey office working within the constituency. My responsibilities included three key types of work: (1) organizing the “clips”, or newspaper clips pertaining to the senator’s activities or major policy matters in the state for the staff’s viewing every day, (2) inputting constituent inquiries into the senator’s constituent services database, and (3) writing memos and other types of briefs for key issue areas. Although the clips were just completed first thing in the morning every day, the other tasks would just be given based on when staff members needed assistance. Interns would also have rotating shifts answering calls at the front desk, which I was assigned to twice a week. Additionally, I got to attend multiple events as part of the senator’s office, such as press conferences with the senator on topics such as the Transportation Security Administration and gun control, a Hillary Clinton rally and visits to the New Jersey State House and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.


Monica: As a summer intern for Senator Kaine, I attended committee hearings and meetings with constituents, and I assisted staff members with special projects and press clips. In addition, I was responsible for recording voice mails from constituents, giving tours of the Capitol, and delivering correspondence between offices. Occasionally we had the opportunity to have lunch with Senator Kaine, Chief of Staff Mike Henry and other staff members.

Did you have the opportunity to spend much time with the senator? In what capacity?               

Ethan: As an intern for the executive assistant, I interacted with Senator Wicker on a daily basis. This often involved providing him advance information before meetings and appearances and even driving him to certain engagements. What surprised me most about Senator Wicker’s office was how interested the senator was in his staff. Senator and Mrs. Wicker took personal interest in the well-being of staffers and interns.

Maria: I definitely spent more time with Senator Booker than I was expecting, particularly because I was interning in my state and not in D.C. However, he kept a strong presence in New Jersey throughout the summer and I spoke to him several times at his events and at the office. The senator is incredibly down-to-earth and makes the effort to get to know his interns. Unfortunately, I was traveling and could not attend, but at the end of the summer, the senator hosted a movie night with all of his summer interns to get to know them better and treat them to a meal. All of my experiences reflected his genuine interest in our success.

What advice would you give to others on how to have a successful experience as an intern?

Maria: I would advise others to act as if every day on the job is another interview, and to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to all assignments. Oftentimes, interns aren’t given the most interesting work. Many don’t think of their ideal job entailing receptionist work or the organization of filing cabinets, but the fact of the matter is that if it has been assigned to you, it will probably make someone else’s day a bit easier, and that person won’t forget it. Once you make that kind of impression, you start being entrusted to do the work that you really want to.

marciano-internsMonica: Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. When else will you be able to roam the halls of the Capitol, talk to specialists in five different policy areas, and attend a speaker series with politicians all in one day? During the Congressional breaks (when the Senate was in recess), I had the unique opportunity to get lunch with several staff members, who gave me advice on everything from law school to networking. I also made sure to attend as many committee meetings as I possibly could, and I believe that these briefings have given me a deeper understanding of issues Congress is working on, including combatting the Zika virus and the implementation of the Every Child Achieves Act. I would also recommend using your fellow interns as resources. As one of the youngest interns in the office, I was able to learn so much from the older students about college, the job search process, and politics.

Samuel: Take advantage of your time in D.C. and on Capitol Hill to create a network. Most people in D.C. are very ambitious and have high expectations for themselves, and you should embrace the opportunity to connect and share your own goals. Don’t be shy, especially within the first couple of weeks. Make friends with the other interns and staffers in your office, but stop and say hi to those in nearby offices as well. Keep in touch with interns you meet at intern lecture series events. Make a D.C. bucket list with your friends of things to do. There are so many free activities and museums to check out in D.C. For instance, your intern ID card gets you into the Library of Congress main reading room, which is the most beautiful room I have ever experienced. When speaking on the phone with constituents, be kind and considerate. Many of those who call are not in the best mood, but they just want to have someone who will listen to their concerns and opinions.

Was there a particular event or moment during your summer that stands out as a highlight?

Ethan: One of my favorite memories was when USSYP Program Director Rayne Guilford came to the office to talk with the staff about the possibility of Senator Wicker serving as a Co-Chair for the 2017 United States Senate Youth Program. I was invited to join the meeting and provide a former participant’s perspective on how beneficial the program is to young people. It was awesome when Senator Wicker agreed to be a Co-Chair!  


Monica: One of my duties as an intern for Senator Kaine was to help the press assistant record articles about Senator Kaine’s vetting process for the vice presidential nomination. As media outlets began to capitalize on speculation surrounding Secretary Clinton’s decision, every day I would receive an increasing number of press clips to record, with titles like “Will Tim Kaine Be Clinton’s VP?” or “Ten Things You Need to Know about Tim Kaine.” I noticed the mounting anticipation not only in the number of articles that came pouring into my inbox, but also in the buzz that enlivened Russell 231. In between the meetings with constituents, the letter writing, the committee hearings, everyone was wondering: would Senator Kaine be the nominee? On Friday, July 22nd, we finally received the answer we had been hoping for. Glued to the TV screen, I watched as this very surreal story began to unfold.

Samuel: It was very difficult to come to work after the Orlando shootings took place in mid-June. I felt sick that tragedy like this was the new normal and I didn’t want to sit idly by without something getting done. It turns out that I didn’t have to wait very long. Several Democratic House members – including my Congressman John Yarmuth – organized the sit-ins for gun control legislation soon after the shootings occurred. While my congressman and others were fighting on the House floor, I was in the office answering phone call after phone call. Whether they called in support or opposition, I was just excited that people cared strongly and wanted to respond. So many people disapprove of government and Congress in particular, but we can’t let this lead to indifference. We need to encourage people to be engaged in the political process. The other interns and I chose to stay late on some days so that we could continue taking calls. I could tell we were part of something historic.

What advice would you give to other students about getting an internship on Capitol Hill?

Ethan: Most Congressional offices want interns who are willing to learn and understand that all functions in the office are valuable. Highlighting previous experience you have working as part of a team and contributing to a goal, even if you weren’t the one taking the lead, is a great addition to your application!

Monica: Don’t be afraid to network! The Hill is all about building personal relationships. Getting a recommendation from someone with a connection in the senator’s office could mean your resume gets pulled from the bottom of the pile. Also make sure to keep in touch with the office after your internship. Many of Senator Kaine’s legislative assistants and staffers were once interns, and they were able to get jobs by updating the office regularly.


Samuel: Before sending in your resume, make sure it is updated and read through it for spelling and grammar. Let someone with fresh eyes read through it as well. When considering which office to apply to, it definitely helps to be from that person’s district or state. If you are intent on avoiding your district or state, it is especially important to have an answer to why the district or state of your new selection is special to you. I would also recommend looking at internships with committees. As a candidate, you should prepare for interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses, what public service means to you, what you would like to get out of the internship, why the congressperson’s district or state is special to you, and what political issues you are passionate about. It may sound odd, but I recommend smiling through the phone interview because it makes you sound happier and more passionate (don’t do this for in-person interviews as it will look very weird). What makes Capitol Hill internship interviews special is that talking politics is fair game. I suggest being frank while at the same time considering the valid arguments and counterarguments. To secure the internship, you do not necessarily have to agree with your congressman or congresswoman, but it is important to know where he or she stands and the work he or she has already done. Do your research on the congressperson’s website. And remember to always ask at least one question of the interviewer.


Photos courtesy of Monica Marciano and Sam Miller

Anderson House and the Society of the Cincinnati

Anderson House and the Society of the Cincinnati Executive Director Jack Warren

Executive Director of the Society of the Cincinnati Jack Warren with 2016 DC Delegates Brian Contreras and Max Finkelpearl

The 2016 United States Senate Youth delegates had a unique opportunity to visit a lavish and historic D.C. mansion that is home to the Society of the Cincinnati, and to hear from one of the nation’s renowned scholars of the Revolutionary War era.

Welcoming the group to the magnificent Anderson House was historian Jack Warren, the executive director of the Society of the Cincinnati, the nation’s oldest patriotic organization.  Founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnati’s mission is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence.

Mr. Warren brought to life those who ushered in a new form of government to the world stage, forever changing society. “The world that we live in began then,” Mr. Warren said, “when people stood up and said ‘We are going to create a nation for the first time in human history, for the very first time, a nation whose purpose is to promote the interests and defend the liberties of ordinary people.’”

One of Mr. Warren’s professional passions is to connect modern Americans to the human side of our nation’s Founding Fathers. In a speech he delivered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, Mr. Warren said, “We talk about our revolution more than any other people in the world talk about their revolution, if they have had one. But, we tend to focus on the philosophy and rationale behind it rather than the battles and the men who commanded those battles. We tend to lose sight of the fact that the Revolutionary War was made up of people who were prepared to give their lives for the cause. And, many of them did,” he added.

“No American war since has produced such a diverse group of general officers,” he continued.  “Our Revolutionary War, in many ways, is a great romantic drama where the soldiers’ lives are reflected through their deeds. Many of Washington’s generals had far more military experience than he did. And, in some cases, at the beginning, they resented him being Commander-in-Chief. Washington’s strength and brilliance was that he learned from his mistakes and he built a hard core of leaders around him that he trusted. By the end of the war, in his farewell address, he referred to them as his Band of Brothers.”

USSYP 2016

USSYP delegate Katherine Krolicki (NV – 2016) described her emotions from the Anderson House event in her reflection essay.  “When Mr. Warren began his speech I was immediately captivated,” she wrote. “This man had a true love for service and his country. I was inspired by his words, and he even made me cry at some points during his speech. He reminded all of us that we need to be thankful to the Founding Fathers for what they have done for us, our country, and even the world.”

Delegate Brooke Hanes (IN – 2016) commented on the depth of information and spirit Mr. Warren conveyed. “Mr. Warren is likely the most patriotic individual I have ever met. I loved hearing from the perspective of someone who loves the United States and all that our country has done for the world, but also acknowledges our past mistakes. Mr. Warren stated something along the lines of, “The Founders and Framers were not perfect, but freedom and liberty had to start somewhere.”

A highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity to view some of the spectacular artifacts from the birth of our nation. The symbol of the eagle, an emblem of freedom, has special significance to the Society of the Cincinnati, and there are more than 30 historically important eagle images at Anderson House. Mr. Warren held aloft what he characterized as the crown jewel of the United States, a diamond eagle medal that George Washington’s brothers in arms in the American Revolution presented him in recognition of his service on the field of battle.


Tracing a direct line from our first president to the mission of the USSYP, Mr. Warren recalled a 1789 speech by George Washington; quoting, “It should be the highest ambition of every American to set aside his private interests and recognize that the choices that he makes will have consequences, not just for himself but for generations and generations.”

USSYP 2016


All photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin


Senate Co-Chairs Share Advice and Wisdom

As summer comes to a close, we know that many students have headed off to college or are starting that all-important senior year of high school.  Some of you may even be applying to the USSYP right now!  If you are looking for advice and counsel on finding success in school, career and life, we offer some excerpts from the keynote addresses given by our Senate Co-Chairs over the years.  Each year two senators, one from each party, serve as the USSYP Senate Co-Chairs and each give the students an evening of their time, providing a keynote address and a lengthy Q & A session.  Let’s start with our 2015 and 2014 Co-Chairs and stay tuned for more to come!

(All photos by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin)  

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

 2015 Democratic Co-Chair Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

  • No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • What you can’t recover from is thinking, “I could have done it, and I didn’t. I didn’t try. I was afraid to step out and take that risk.” That’s the one you can’t live with, because that will haunt you. That keeps you up at night sometimes, thinking, “I could’ve made a difference.  I really could have.” We all have those moments in life. 
  • Take care of others. As my grandfather used to say, “Leave a little meat on the bone for the next dog.”
  • You have to take care of yourself. Keep yourself strong—mentally, physically, and financially – do the best that you can.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the Senate Youth Program’s 2015 Democratic Co-Chair, has been the center of much legislative activity since the evening he spent with the USSYP delegates. He has strengthened his reputation as a consensus builder willing to work across party lines on common sense solutions. He has lead bipartisan efforts on gun control, and taken to the Senate Floor to raise awareness of the prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.

During his keynote evening, looking out on a sea of young faces, Senator Manchin reflected on his own childhood. “My grandfather told me to keep myself strong mentally, physically and financially if I ever wanted to be able to help anyone else, and I learned the meaning of real service to others from my grandmother, Mama Kay.” It was his grandmother who, in providing a safe haven, work and meals for those in need, showed her young grandson a template for government to serve as a helping hand. She also told him these indelible words:  “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 53rd annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 7-14, 2015. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

He spoke frankly to the delegates about the perceived price of being involved in public life and the intensive scrutiny it engenders. ”Wouldn’t this be a heck of a place to live if everyone was afraid of that risk and wouldn’t serve?” he reflected. “It’s such a small price to pay for democracy, such a small price.”

Senator Manchin currently leads the Democratic side of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee in charge of Army and Air Force programs, as well as the Energy Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Additionally, he serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.


© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
2015 Republican Co-Chair Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

  • Never stop learning.
  • Lead an ethical life and treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Love your country, your family, friends and schools. Love people and use things – don’t use people and love things.
  • You will need a deep and abiding faith to get you through difficult times.
  • Have respect for your fellow human beings.

Two months after 2015 Republican Co-Chair Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) spent an evening with delegates, he had a life-changing announcement to make to his Senate colleagues and Georgia constituents. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Continuing the strength and leadership he showed at the Archives, he announced, “My diagnosis has not impacted my ability to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. I remain devoted to public service, to my state and to my constituents.”

The senator certainly has a lot on his plate, being the only Republican in the Senate chairing two committees — the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where he and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) heralded the July passage of bipartisan legislation to increase veterans’ disability benefits. He has made Veterans’ Administration reform a top priority, frequently speaking out on the Senate Floor and penning powerful op-eds.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

Addressing the delegates at the National Archives, Senator Isakson shared profound words on the meaning of public service and he has exemplified that priority since his early years. He is the first Georgian since the 1800s to have served in the state House, state Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In keeping with his focus on youth, he has also served as the chairman of the Georgia Board of Education.

The closing comments of his keynote address are written in many a USSYP leather journal. “Be willing to dream, for in America you have the opportunity to be whatever you dream you want to be, if you prepare through your ethics, through your respect for your fellow man, through loving your fellow man, through respecting the institutions that have gotten you here, and learning every single day.”

Senator Isakson is running for re-election in 2016.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
2014 Democratic Co-Chair Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

  • Live up to great expectations like Montanan and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield did. Show leadership and work together.
  • When you find a mentor or meet a leader, ask them who inspires them. Ask them how they make their decisions. Ask them what matters most in our future. Then you’ll find out what kind of leaders they are, and you’ll find out what kind of leaders you may want to be.
  • Learn new things and diversify. “That’s why I went off and majored in music. I was going to become a diesel mechanic. My folks said, ‘You know what? This farm may not be here forever, so you’ve got to broaden your horizons a little bit and diversify,’ so I went from going to school to be a diesel mechanic to being a music teacher. That’s pretty good diversification, right?”


“You come from every corner of the country, but the common bond that unites you is that each and every one of you has something to offer this great nation,” Senator Jon Tester, the 2014 Democratic Co-Chair proclaimed to begin his keynote speech.

Exhorting the delegates to never doubt their prospects for success, he humorously gave himself as an example, “I am not exactly your typical senator,“ he said, jokingly pointing to his non-Ivy League college degree, non-existent law degree, flat-top hairstyle and the loss of three fingers on one hand to a meat grinder. “But I walk in the footsteps of Mike Mansfield, in fact I sit in his seat now– he who led the Senate as majority leader for a record sixteen years and held the expectation that leadership means being willing to work with those of differing opinions to do what’s right for your country.”

Senator Tester exemplifies leadership and dedication to bipartisanship in his recent efforts to improve the Veterans’ Choice program. He is the vice chair of the Indian Affairs Committee and has pending bipartisan legislation with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) to preserve Native American and tribal culture. He has traveled the United States extensively this election cycle in his chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The senator’s support for the USSYP continues, including serving on the 2017 Senate Youth Program Advisory Committee. And he has confidence in the abilities of the next generation, as evidenced by his optimistic closing remarks. “Our country is always changing, as are the people who lead it, although we face challenges that have existed for generations, every challenge is an opportunity to shape our future.”

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin







© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

2014 Republican Co-Chair Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

  • Master a skill early in life; become an expert.
  • Set a bold vision for yourself.
  • Give back – no matter what age you are, no matter where you live. Be selfless.
  • Adhere to your principles, but stretch a little to be open to compromise.

Against the stunning backdrop of the National Archives Rotunda where our nation’s founding documents are displayed, the 2014 USSYP Republican Co-Chair Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee summarized his own personal story and offered the delegates several key guideposts for life: “First, master a skill early on. Become indispensable. This will give you the confidence you need to propel yourselves into your futures and will afford you the independence that comes from doing something exceptionally well.”

Senator Corker’s leadership skills, mastery of public policy, and desire to improve the world have been recently lauded in his bipartisan efforts to end human trafficking. He is well positioned to tackle this issue as the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation (S. 553) was unanimously voted out of the Foreign Relations Committee in February 2015, and was signed into law by the president as part of an appropriations bill in December 2015. The senator is also serving on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, the Budget Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. He has developed a high profile policy presence on the Sunday news shows in this year’s election cycle, especially sharing his perspective on preventing terrorism in light of recent events in Paris, Brussels and Nice.

© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

The National Archives was perhaps the perfect setting for the senator’s 2014 keynote speech. His love of American history was evident when he was asked about the nation’s charter documents illuminated behind him. He spoke eloquently about the Constitution musing that he wished he could delve into what the framers were thinking as they “wrote this document that has guided us and so many other countries trying to create their own; a document that sets out and embraces the values that we have as a nation.”


© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin