Dr. Danielle Ripich
Advisor on Higher Education to Senator Ted Kennedy
Our second interview of the day was supposed to be with Danica Petroshius, who is the Chief Educational Advisor to Senator Ted Kennedy.
We learned our first lesson on being flexible in the topsy turvy world of Washington politics. As soon as we arrived at the Senator's office, we were met by our soon-to-be good friend, Sheyda Jahanbani, an intern for Senator Kennedy. Senator Kennedy was on the floor of the Senate introducing a piece of education legislation, and hence his Education advisor was with him, and consequently not with us. Shedya and another intern, Jeff, took us to the Senate chamber through a route that would be impossible to duplicate without a guide dog or a trail of bread crumbs. After witnessing a debate on procedure led by Senator Byrd, we returned to the Hart Senate Office Building for a stairwell interview with a wonderfully intelligent woman by the name of Dr. Danielle Ripich. She is a visiting fellow who is in Washington on loan from her university as an advisor on higher education to Senator Kennedy.

She told us about how much she had learned since she arrived in Washington nine months ago. She was a very well-spoken and highly educated woman who kept our attention for the entire interview even though we were tired from yesterday's flight. She was one of my favorite interviews. Although she hadn't been in Washington long, she seemed to have grasped the principles of Washington life. One of the things that amazed her the most was the amount of work that goes on here. She said that even if she goes back to university life, she still wants to somehow stay active in public policy.

We discussed with Danielle the particulars of the current education legislation that are being considered, hoping to gain insights for our scheduled meeting with Deputy Secretary of Education Marshall Smith. Her grasp of specifics, from the America Reads program, to funding for reconstructing schools in poorer districts was amazing. It was also inspirational to hear how she had gone back to school after starting a family building a second career that has brought her to this interesting work she is now doing.

One thing that Daniel said that really struck me was, that when she came to Washington, she did not have a very high opinion of government. However, since being here she has met so many hard working and dedicated people. She now has an entirely different perspective on government and the people who work in this town. It seems like we are learning the same lesson.

In spite of the fact that nothing worked out as planned, that we were sitting without our notebooks or our prepared questions talking to a person we had not prepared for, we managed to pull it off. It was a good confidence builder.

We also should also say something about our new friend Sheyda. She had the difficult job of trying to take care of our group while all our best laid plans were falling apart. She was more that just polite and kind. She like so many of the wonderful interns and aides in Washington took a personal interest in our group. She did far more that any of us would have ever expected to insure were able to have a good interview. Even amongst so many nice people she really stood out as special.