Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Great Lakes Day in Washington, DC, 2013

As you can see from the grin on my face, there's nothing like a little good weather and a trip to the Capitol to instill a sense of civic pride. It helps that just prior to snapping this picture I had been in meetings with Congressional staffers discussing the merits of our region, advocating for the continuation of certain programs (e.g., the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative), and talking about regional priorities and the need for support on various legislation. All in all, I felt a connection to the political process that I had never experienced before. I've been to DC before, and I dutifully vote in the majority of elections. However, the experience I had during the 2013 Great Lakes Day in Washington is one that will stick with me in ways that those other experiences have not.

So what is Great Lakes Day and why did it leave such a lasting impression?  The official answer as found on the Great Lakes Commission website: "Great Lakes Day is an annual event hosted by the Great Lakes Commission and the Northeast-Midwest Institute to convey a unified message to Congress expressing the Great Lakes region's priorities for legislation and appropriations to protect our environment and support our economy." Don't get me wrong, Great Lakes Day is all of these things. But, it is also a chance to explore the city, attend a reception at the Canadian embassy, help with a congressional breakfast at which you meet Sen. Levin(!), highlight the results of all of the hard work the organization has been doing to generate regional consensus among a broad array of stakeholders, and show off some of the products that you (the Fellow) have been working on so diligently (example: http://www.glc.org/restore/glrimap/). My week in DC will be one of the brightest moments of my fellowship, and is yet another reason to be incredibly grateful to my mentors and friends at both the Commission and at Sea Grant.

Amanda Sweetman
Great Lakes Commission Fellow
(6/2012 – 6/2013)

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