Eleven students and their professor recently got an up-close look at national politics at the 2012 Federal Seminar in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, students from across the country gathered to hear from elected and appointed officials, primarily on the conference theme of “Compassionate Justice,” Associate Professor of History Dr. Travis Ricketts said. The Bryan delegation also had time to meet an alumna who works for the State Department and to attend two extra seminars.
“We got there at 8 a.m. on Monday and couldn’t check into our hotel until the afternoon, so we scheduled a session with the American Enterprise Institute,” Dr. Ricketts said. “We heard about the Florida election. Then after the conference ended on Friday before our bus left we had a session at the Heritage Foundation comparing biblical justice and social justice.”
The political bent of most speakers was a challenge for some students. “Some students have a hard time wrapping their minds around the thought that William Jennings Bryan was a Christian conservative but a political liberal,” Dr. Ricketts said. “One student said he had heard of Christian socialists but didn’t know that many. There was a variety of opinion.”
Student Samuel Gilbertson added, “The seminar helped reassure my faith in Washington after getting the chance to meet and hear from genuine and passionate political leaders. But it also opened my eyes to the disparity of political viewpoints held by evangelicals.”
Presentations by Maj. Gen. Cecil Richardson, chief of chaplains of the U.S. Air Force, and Dr. Barry Black, chaplain of the Senate, touched conference participants across the political spectrum, Dr. Ricketts said. Dr. Black reminded students that “Opportunity often is disguised as work.”
The Bryan group met with Katherine Halvorson, ’05, who works as a Foreign Service officer for the Department of State. She described the different challenges she and her colleagues have faced in working for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Dr. Ricketts said the experience is valuable for students, but he is exploring alternatives to offer a more balanced approach to national issues than he has found recently.