For three months this fall, I had the privilege of being a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
It was an extraordinary experience and reconfirmed my optimistic view about the future of our nation.
My main responsibility was to teach a study group once a week for Harvard undergraduates. My subject -- the future of the federal judiciary -- turned out to be extremely timely because of the confirmation process involving John Roberts, Harriet Miers and Samuel Alito.
Additionally, I had the opportunity to audit three classes -- two for undergraduate students and one in the law school--and was also asked to be a guest lecturer in several courses on the subject of Congress and to take part in numerous panel discussions both at the Kennedy School and in residence halls (houses) on current issues.
It was the chance to get to know undergraduate students at Harvard College that gave me great hope for the future.
Obviously the young people here are bright and well-informed on current events. But it was more than just their intelligence that impressed me. They were mature beyond their years and are highly motivated to make our country a better place in which to live. And it’s my guess that there are students equally well-motivated at colleges and universities throughout our country.
I’m sure there are students here who will chase the almighty dollar after graduation (certainly many in the business school), but the ones I got to know want to be involved in public service. Some will be judges, some will be members of Congress and others will simply volunteer their time to good works in their home communities. All will make a difference.
Interestingly, not all the students I met were liberals. A number would be considered political moderates and more than I expected identified themselves as Republicans. There is political diversity, even at Harvard.
The three months in Cambridge were the equivalent of a sabbatical. Not everyone has the opportunity to take time off, to think about the problems facing our nation and to generally recharge their batteries. For those who can, I recommend it, whether it’s time spent at a university, building houses for Habitat for Humanity or going on a mission for your church.
We continue to be the greatest nation of earth but we’re not perfect. Taking the time to reflect on what makes us great and how you and others can make us an ever better country is well worth the effort.
Even if you can’t take time off from your regular daily routine as I did over the last three months, take some time to get to know today’s young people. They are the hope for our nation and, to the extent that you can help shape their lives in some small way, you will have made a real contribution to our future.
I am returning to Washington, D.C. after my stint at the Institute of Politics and intend to be involved in some of the major issues facing our country. I do not, however, anticipate ever running for office again. But you don’t have to hold political office in our country to make a difference.
The year 2006 is an election year. All 435 members of the U.S. House and one-third of the U.S. Senate must run for re-election. Many states will be electing governors and virtually all states will be electing at least one house of their legislatures. Also, countless local offices will be decided.
Take some time during the months ahead to be involved in politics. I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican…work for the candidate or party of your choice. And if you can’t work in a campaign, at least follow the candidates and the issues in the press.
We owe it to the great young people coming of age to leave them a country that is in good shape. If we will do our part, I have every confidence that they will do theirs.
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel, and is currently a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.