Public Affairs Lecture Series: Senator Jeff Flake

On Thursday, January 24th, BYU lecture series was pleased to have Senator Jeff Flake speak to students. Jeff Flake is a politician who served as a United States Senator from Arizona from 2013 to 2019. A Republican, Flake previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. Jeff Flake was born in Snowflake, Arizona, and attended Brigham Young University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and later his Master of Arts degree in political science.

Jeff Flake shared with students that his interest in politics started at a young age, as he watched his father serve as mayor of his town. Following his mission to South Africa, he was interested in politics in Africa. After his graduation Jeff Flake and his wife, Sherill, headed out to Washington D.C. with no internship, no offer, and no real destination. Fortunately, they quickly found jobs and Flake started his work on Capitol Hill as an intern.

Jeff Flake also shared with students the most important things that he felt he learned while attending BYU. He said that he was grateful for his political science classes. He felt like these classes really pushed him academically and taught him how to be precise and detailed. Flake also recognized how valuable it was that he learned how to write effectively as a student. He shared that as an employer he looks for people who can write clearly, persuasively, and grammatically correct. Flake also shared with students that if he could go back to his time at BYU, he would take more classes in economics. He believes a good understanding in economics would have been very helpful in congress and in other opportunities he has had in his career.

After a motivating introduction, Jeff Flake left the remainder of the time to take questions from the students. The following are some of the highlights from those questions:

 

Q: What is the best way to bridge that gap between having a different personal opinion than the stance that your supported party takes?

A: In political positions first ask yourself, “are you a representative or a delegate?” I believe in the later. You have to be driven by your personal opinion and feel you are moving the country in the direction you believe it should go. If I only desired is to win a reelection, then that would mean adopting things I couldn’t adopt and acting in a behavior that I don’t believe in. I couldn’t do it. I know there are perks to being in the arena, but you must also know there are lots of sacrifices. Especially on your family. If you are just there to mark time and enjoy the perks and not take your stance, it is not worth the sacrifices.

Q: What would be your do’s and don’ts for a young intern, who is hopefully for success in Washington D.C.?

A: When you’re there, take every opportunity you can to network. Go to events, hearings, receptions; literally whatever it is, take advantage of all of those things. To get a job in Washington, it really is all about connections. Also, except positions that may not pay well. When you are looking for internships, leave your pride at the door! You might have an advanced degree, language skills, and good people skills, but you must remember that just about everyone competing with you has a similar background. So be humble and work your way up. Finally, be careful about your presents on social media. What you post and what you like. Be careful even about posting about positions that you take. People can interpret things however they want to on social media. Life can be unfair, and you can easily be treated unfairly for something from the past.

 

Q: As young people in politics we want to defend truth and also be bipartisan? How do we navigate through what we believe to be right with what we bend to be neutral on?

A: This is a current problem in this country. You have to share facts that a deemed as truth in order to move forward. Change the channel! Don’t watch Fox all day or only CNN or NBC. You need to see what other people believe and see with different issues. Likewise, change your news feed. Don’t drink your own bathwater. Realize that at your age you have something that people my age only dreamed of. We have access to everything involved in politics in the click of a button. Unfortunately, these advancements have not necessarily led people to have more educated views. So, make sure that you take advantage of them. Also remember that not everyone feels the same way that you do.

Thank you Senator Jeff Flake for your insights!