Reflections on the annual Poli Sci trip to DC and the desire to restore respect for political office

By Paul Riley ’20

Paul Riley '20 of Dedham, Massachusetts, shared his reflections on the value of trips to Washington. DC. When he mentions "Ray" and his experience, he refers to Raymond Mosca '19, who spent last summer as an intern at the Washington Center and also interned for Senator Susan Collins and Representative Bruce Poliquin.

Student group photo from the Sebago Lake to Washington DC trip

L to R: Marisellia Greenlaw ’18, Matthew Gregoire ’18, Olivia Wilkinson ’21, Paul Riley ’20, Sean Peschier ’20, William Hardiman ’19, Raymond Mosca ’19 (in front), Paul Riley ’20 (in back), Erin O’Brien ’19, Emma Tirrell ’18, and Elizabeth Cummons ’19 visit the statue of Hannibal Hamlin at the Capitol Building Rotunda. Photo: Olivia Wilkinson.

For many students, we seldom have the finances or means to visit anywhere that isn’t our dorms, our classrooms, or Portland. This trip provided an affordable opportunity for students to visit our nation’s capital in one of the most important and, dare I say, divisive administrative eras in recent memory.

Because Ray Mosca ’19 was at the helm [as Poli Sci Club president], he is someone who has been in the thick of it all before and he was able to give us more than just the usual tourist trip to DC. Ray organized a tour of the capitol building and the Georgetown library, and he even showed us some of his favorite spots to grab food, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Often today, the media will tell us that Washington, DC is cutthroat and divided. We’re told nothing positive gets done there–both inside Congress and out in the streets. But every single person–whether they are an employee of the government or a cashier in We the Pizza– cannot recommend enough working in DC. All of the people knew they had a job to do and they did their best to set aside the current state of Congress and the White House to do what they needed to do and be happy.

I am not sure what makes DC so alluring. Each of the three times that I have visited, I felt like Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I felt like a kid again, bright eyed in wonder of the marvelous works set down by the forefathers.

My first trip to DC was with my family when I was probably eight years old (I am the youngest of five). I was not old enough to really appreciate what DC means or remember most of the trip. My father reminded me of it during my senior year in high school, and he knew that his future politician of a son needed to see it again. He and I went to DC together, celebrated my graduation, and saw the sights. It was one of the most transformative times in my life. I was seeing the end of the Obama era and looking at this place thinking to myself ‘someday…’ I cannot put into words how influential that was for me when I was set to come to college. It helps me keep my focus on the end goal. Last year, I went on the College’s Inauguration trip, once again a benchmark in shaping my political philosophy. Finally, the third trip, this year with Ray.

This reminds me of a quote from John F. Kennedy: “Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.” There tends to be a certain aura around politicians that is similar to that of lawyers and used car salesmen. People don’t trust them. People think that they are in their career for their own self interests. This distrust of politicians isn’t necessarily justified. They are thinking of just one type of politician. My calling in life is to be the voice of young people in politics and to restore respect to the office.

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Political Science covers topics in American government and politics, international relations and globalization, counter-terrorism, and research methods with further specializations in history, international, statistics, or law.

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