Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jason on Staying Involved in Political Life

"I've had three lives in Washington. I came here 30 years ago to work on Capitol Hill. I started out as a press secretary on the House side. I did that for two-and-a-half years or so and then went back to journalism, which is what I had been doing before I moved to Washington. I worked as a correspondent and columnist for a Connecticut newspaper. Then, I started a news service and did some freelance work. I did that for five years or so and then was lured back to the Hill. I was offered a job as a press secretary for Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). I did that for a few years and that grew into being his chief of staff.

"After a total of seven years on the Hill, I figured that I wanted to try something else. I was still pretty young and had a new family and wanted to make a transition. I wanted to do something that was less carrying the coat for someone and more doing things on my own. I didn't want to do what a lot of people did, which was to leave the Hill and make money. So, I thought that I would work for a cause. I didn't have any one particular cause singled out, but looked around and talked to some people who talked to some people. I ended up getting offered a position with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an organization I had had no contact with. It was a cause, or I should say multiple causes, that I had had some contact with. And it was an introduction to a community with whom I had had very limited contact. Before AJC, I worked for a Senator who was more involved in Latin America than the Middle East.

"But, I liked the people and the spirit of the place. It was an intriguing possibility to run the D.C. office of an organization that was based someplace else. There was a certain range of autonomy and a broad range of issues on which to work. The organization has stature and the position made sense to me. I took the job never realizing that I would be sitting here 18 years later still talking about it. This is a position that has allowed me to write, do politics, dabble with policy and stretch into diplomatic areas, which is fascinating and sometimes frustrating. The job provides limitless possibilities to help and learn from people and move policy.

"This job continues to be a merging of interests and talents that I have developed over my life. The work that I do keeps me involved in political life. And I live on Capitol Hill, which is a great place to live and to stay involved in political life, also. I have the same house that I bought when I was married 25 years ago or so. I raised a family here. I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island and always assumed that the only place to live was New York. It was the center of the universe. But, I learned that Washington was actually a great city. It is smaller and okay, at two or three in the morning there are not as many things do to as Manhattan, but the quality of life here is great. The rich-poor disparities are not as big as in New York. And I like the sky and green of Washington. The only problem is that the school system is not so great. But, I really love Washington and I love the Hill."

Learn more about the American Jewish Committee here.

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