Experiencing the Democratic Experiment

Jason D’Antonio, Class of 2019

This summer I had the privilege to work in the district office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) right here in Philadelphia. The summer of 2017 will always be remembered as a unique one. The circumstances around the 2016 presidential race offered new opportunities and challenges for us in the office. The experience allowed me to learn several lessons about leadership, and allowed me to grow professionally as an individual.

Anyone working in government in those four months cannot talk about their experience without mentioning healthcare. The Senator was part of the working group within the Senate to find a better solution to the deficient system. Their solution, the BCRA, was a contested one and contributed to an already tense but necessary debate about healthcare reform. Throughout the reform efforts, our office facilitated meetings and met with a number of policy stakeholders including physicians, patient groups, and healthcare officials. The final vote was a setback, but it taught me that there will be struggles in a road to achieving for something you believe in, something that the people mandated you to do.

Abroad, our office faced tests in the far East. An aggressive North Korea was seen as a threat to American and global security. So, in a refreshing bipartisan move, the Senator and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced the BRINK Act. In an effort to deescalate the situation while simultaneously neutralize the North Korean threat, this bill imposed secondary sanctions on businesses involved in North Korea’s economy which essentially bankrolled their nuclear proliferation and repressive regime. The BRINK Act reminds us that there are peaceful, yet decisive ways to achieve your goals.

And finally – ah yes, the President. While the President agreed with the Senator on a some issues such as the need for a replacement to the ACA, the Senator disagreed with “The Wall” proposal, criticized the Putin regime, and the transgender ban just to name a few. Much of the inquiries from constituents revolved around the Mueller investigation which the Senator supported as well, much to the relief of Philadelphians. Working in the government during the Trump presidency reminds us all that it is important to stick to your values, but it is equally important to be independent when you don’t subscribe to a certain belief.

A short distance from Independence Hall, the morning commute always reminded me of the significance of the office and what it represents. To me, it was important that I gather regional feedback on foreign and domestic policy, as well as political events, and relay them to the Senator for the voter. It was, and always will be, a key component to our democratic experiment and I can wholeheartedly thank Saint Joseph’s and its faculty for the confidence and encouragement to do it.

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