One of the best parts of being politically active was not only the opportunity to meet and hear powerful people, but as the MSPAC matured it began to think about real lobbying, which meant only one thing: Washington DC. Our MSPAC leaders, Mike Egan (D) and Kim Werdell (R) would organize a group trip to Washington DC to meet with Congressman and Senators on the hill. Mike was the funny guy and Kim was the organized one. Political affiliation had nothing to do with that…really. We pulled people from different Microsoft offices, many came from Redmond but we also had Fargo, North Dakota, Silicon Valle, Irving, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina represented. I experienced a lot of cool things the 4 times I went to the hill but here are some of my favorite highlights.
The first trip was a great adventure just because like anything fun in life, it was new! We flew to Reagan International Airport in DC. The five-hour flight was non descriptive which is always a good thing when you are flying. We were than whisked away to the Capitol Building where we were to meet in Congress Woman Jennifer Dunn of Washington State’s 8th congressional district. As we boarded our bus I realized I was not dressed in the right attire as I thought we were going to our hotel first. As we were traveling through DC, our leader Mike Egan was acting as tourist guide. A highlight being, “..and there is Congressman Patrick Kennedy talking to an attractive young woman”. He’s a Kennedy. It’s the expectation not the norm. We departed the bus and I was putting on my tie as we walked to the Capitol building and found our way over to Congresswoman Dunn’s office. There was a lot of food and a lot of staffers in the room. As I learned this is how staffers lived – literally. This was dinner. During that time we met Congressman Rick Larson of Washington State. We went back to our hotel rooms, some went out others called it a night.
The next morning at breakfast was really the first chance I had to meet everyone who was with us on the trip. Most distinct,a s we did our round of introductions was the boisterous and lovely Jerri Johnson, “from the great state of Texas!!”, She was a big Bush supporter and so politically we did not agree on much but she was very nice and fun to hang out with. We also had a Jewish democrat Rob Dolan with us, passionate about politics and passionate about Microsoft. Tim the lawyer, Matt our Capitol Hill Lobbyist on the Democratic side, John Sampson, the Republican side of the House, Scott, Lobbyist for the Dems in the Senate, John Newhart from the Microsoft Office Team, a few guys from the MS mobility team who thought it was a sales call, Meghan our assistant from Redmond, and a bunch more – we were tech people in business attire. A odd-looking crew.
In year two when we went we went as usual to the Capitol Building and this time to the office of Washington State House representative, Jay Inslee. After a brief meeting with Jay in his office he took us out on a guided tour of the capitol building after hours. It was very cool as we were the only ones in the building. We went by all the statues, each state has two statues of key figures in that state’s history.
The highlight of the second trip would be what is called a departure. I had no idea what it was, but we went to the white house and got through security, which was very tight. Once on the White House grounds we walked by the entry way into the White House. A car had pulled up to the entrance and the door opened and out popped right in front of me Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He must have recently fallen as his arm was in a sling. Getting out of the car next was General Pete Pace and has he got out of the car he saw me and said “Hi”. A small moment in my life but it is cool to see the power players.
From there we were led around and saw a few things of interest. Where the press corp resides on the White House Lawn and the Press room. Apparently it was a swimming pool before it was converted to what we see on television today. What you do not see is that it is very cramped, has no windows and would be a nightmare for the press corp without air conditioning. We then went by the rose garden, which is right outside the oval office, Again not very big but pretty. We then were led to a roped off area outside the residence. Though we could not see him the Presidents Scottish terrier was in full force barking up a storm inside the residence. With the doors open he was not hard to hear,
Then all of a sudden out of the sky came a military helicopter landing onto the White House lawn. We were all behind a roped area, Jerri Johnson was next to me waving the flag of Texas. As the helicopter waited, we waited. Then Laura Bush came out followed by twin daughters Jenna and Barbara. Those two wanted nothing to do with anybody. No waving or smiling just heads down and straight for the waiting helicopter. Frankly they looked pissed. Then we waited a few moments until all of a sudden popping out from the oval office was President Bush and his entourage. he strode very confidently across the lawn. Next to him was then National Security Adviser Condalisa Rice and Karl Rove. They were all followed bu Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The president waved and immediately picked out the Texas flag, smiled and pointed at Jerri. It was a cool moment for Jerri and since she was a big Bush supporter I was happy for her. As the President boarded he salute the Marine standing by the door went to the top of the stairs, turned and did the classic Presidential wave and disappeared into the helicopter.
The final note on this for those who have not seen when the helicopter takes off from the White House lawn, out of no where come two identical helicopters as a diversion for any potential attack on the President.
In between all these cool moments the MSPAC team did spend time meeting in the halls of Congress visiting with both Senators and Congressman. Listening to Congressman John Lewis of Georgia talk about Selma, Alabama and the Civil Rights movement will always be a highlight of my life. Afterwords he and I talked about Seattle artist Jacob Lawrence, whom he had known. Eating at the Capital Hill lunch room will be a memorable dining experience, the tour underneath the Capital building was also cool – there is a lot of space down there that few people know about. Seeing the tomb where George Washington has been invited to lay in rest (he is still in Mount Vernon), Ted Kennedy speaking on the Senate floor, Hilary Clinton on her Cell phone,…there is a lot more but for now I will just say we should all be thankful for the people who lead this country, I just hope those in power never forget why they are there and forget that it is a privilege to serve.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 6, 2011