Alex Becker ’10 and James Tatgenhorst ’09 see democracy in action in D.C.
April 26, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
Capitol Hill. Above, Becker (upper left corner) was invited
to sit in the First Lady's section during the President's
State of the Union address.
The saying goes that, no matter where a Centre alum ends up after graduation, it's likely that another Centre alum isn't too far away. This is particularly evident in Washington, D.C., where numerous Centre alums work in politics on Capitol Hill. This story is the third in a series about young alums who find themselves in the nation's capital working in the government—and for Alex Becker ’10 and James Tatgenhorst ’09, nothing could be more enjoyable.
Becker, a staff assistant in the office of Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Tatgenhorst, a staff assistant for Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, find themselves in the midst of the political process on a daily basis.
“I handle all incoming email to our office and make sure that each one either receives a response or is forwarded to another staffer who can better deal with that issue. The Senator can receive several thousand emails a day, so it keeps me busy,” Tatgenhorst says. “I am also Sen. Corker's driver. The Senator is constantly moving around the city for meetings and events, and I'm the one who gets him there.”
“It's very humbling, coming into work every day in the Capitol Building. I get to work alongside some of the most talented people our country has to offer,” says Becker. “Also, I find it very rewarding to see the democratic process in action. It's something that most people take for granted.”
Both Centre alumni have long had an interest in government, so going to the nation's capital was a natural decision.
“I always had a passion for politics. I also always have wanted to live in Washington, D.C.,” Becker says. “I'm extremely lucky to live in such a great city and work for a member of Congress I've always admired and respected.”
For Tatgenhorst, leaving the country after graduation helped develop his interest in American politics.
“I came to D.C. after working for the Department of Defense at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Germany because I wanted to get involved in public policy,” Tatgenhorst says. “High-level government and military officials frequented Edelweiss for conferences and meetings, and I was lucky enough to spend time and speak with many of them in my various positions around the resort. I've always had an interest in U.S. policy and foreign affairs, but my time abroad convinced me to take the next step and to do something more than just watch.”
Becker and Tatgenhorst acknowledge Centre for developing their interest in government and politics as well as readying them for jobs on Capitol Hill.
“Centre prepared me very well for my work,” Becker says. “The emphasis on thinking critically during my Centre education has been very valuable in my job.”
“I can point to one class in particular that drove me to find a job on Capitol Hill,” says Tatgenhorst. “John Perry's economics of public policy was one of my favorite classes at Centre—not just because it was fun, but because I could see the practical application of what we were learning. Dr. Perry made it clear why the smallest of unintended economic consequences can sometimes be enough to outweigh an otherwise beneficial bill. Senator Corker is very much a businessman and understands that concept very well.”
Having a Centre community in Washington, D.C., has been important to the two alums.
“The Centre network up here is great, especially on the Hill,” says Tatgenhorst. “In fact, when I decided to move here they were the first people I reached out to, and a lot of us still get together regularly. There's no doubt that my transition back to the States would have been a lot tougher without them.”
“The D.C. Centre community has been so comforting to have,” Becker agrees. “Moving to a new city was tough and being able to see familiar faces really made the transition a lot easier. Regardless if I knew them well while at Centre, we always have something in common and everyone is always willing to help me out with anything.”
Both Becker and Tatgenhorst enjoy that working in Washington, D.C., has given them a firsthand look at American politics.
“Keeping up with the Senator's crazy schedule makes for some long days, but it has allowed me a front seat to the issues we're working with,” Tatgenhorst says. “I'm always learning, and that's my favorite part about it.”
To read about other alumni working in politics in Washington, D.C., click here.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.