A Woman in the Arena: From Intern to Congresswoman
Being “in the arena” – in public service and politics is a privilege that is rewarding, frustrating and inspiring. It’s a people business – serving people, organizing people, listening to people, learning from people and leading people to improve our communities, our country, and the lives of our neighbors as well as people we will never meet all around the world. Public service allows us to see wrongs in the public square and work to right them and build coalitions to do so.
Rep. Barbara Comstock has been engaged in the political process since her Mom first drove around and put up yard signs in storefronts. From a young age, Rep. Comstock volunteered, interned on Capitol Hill as a college student, interviewed candidates for her school newspaper, and moved to Washington, D.C. for law school. She was a stay at home Mom and volunteered on elections, went back to work on Capitol Hill as a staff member in her Congressman’s office, served as chief counsel for the major investigative committee, as well as a senior Justice Department official post 9/11. When her children were grown, Barbara ended up running for office herself and serving in the Virginia House of Delegates and Congress. Along the way, she worked and volunteered on many campaigns, including the Bush 2000 Presidential campaign and the Romney 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and worked in the private sector as a partner at a law firm and founded her own public relations firm. Rep. Comstock has served on boards to battle Alzheimer’s, help veterans, support victims of child abuse and human trafficking, and more. She came to Washington, D.C. knowing no one in politics and no elected officials.
Rep. Comstock's various positions allowed her to work on many issues of concern such as tax reform to help families and businesses; welfare reform, workforce development and flexible work policies; and post 9/11 legislation and policies to deal with terrorist threats and rebuilding our military. She was able to pass legislation that fundamentally changed how we address human trafficking at the state and federal level and work on landmark legislation to battle opioid addiction. She learned of a simple pulse oximetry test that could detect heart defects at birth and passed legislation to make that test required for every baby at birth. Rep. Constock became very engaged in learning about new technology and passed legislation that advanced innovation, STEM education, and advancing more women in STEM fields. She worked with coalitions both inside and outside of government to dramatically increase funding for medical research for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other chronic debilitating diseases. In the “Me Too” response, Rep. Comstock was able to be part of numerous hearings exposing the problem as well as pass landmark legislation reforming congressional laws on dealing with sexual harassment and providing more funding to battle one of the most common workforce problems. She also founded a “Young Women’s Leadership Program” to mentor high school women and expose them to women leaders in a variety of fields that she will now be growing into a larger mentorship program for women of all ages at George Mason University.
This study group will focus on the variety of jobs and opportunities available throughout government service and the political landscape and how these positions allow you to advance the issues and causes you care about in the public arena. Each study group will focus on a job area such as internships, entry level jobs; congressional staff or counsel; agency staff, campaign staff, etc. We will discuss matching your interests and skills to various jobs through our invited guests that will include Members of Congress, state officials, campaign managers, members of the press, and other senior officials, as well as my experiences working with a variety of officials, agencies, and campaigns as an intern, staffer, counsel, advisor, and as a candidate. Our guests each will demonstrate the variety of opportunities and career paths for all – regardless of their background – to be engaged in the important work of public service and politics and to find your “why” and the issues or efforts that you can impact in the arena and how best to succeed.
NOTE: Weekly topics are subject to change, based on shifting schedules of our guests and topical news developments.