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2001 SPS National Intern
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Mark Lentz
Mark Lentz
Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA

Internship: SPS National Office/SPS Outreach

 
A Night on Capitol Hill
Dr. Richard Berg  

Congressman John Cooksey, 5th District Louisiana.

 

I got a call from my Dad one day while I was at work. He was calling to tell me that someone from Congressman John Cooksey's staff would be calling me shortly to invite me to dinner with the Congressman, his staff and several chosen K-12 teachers from Louisiana, my home state. My father, who is in upper management at Bell South, had arranged for me to attend the dinner through his colleague Herschel Abbott, the former president and newly appointed lobbyist for Bell South.

The dinner was held at the Capital Hill Club, which is located down town by the capital building and is easy to find with it's distinct green awning and seemingly constant flow of limos. The interior of the building was quite exquisite. There were many sparkling chandeliers and shinny dinnerware on the tables.

 

Dr. Richard Berg  

 

 

As I was walking around the establishment, which is mostly broken up in to separated ballrooms, reception halls and dining areas, I saw several distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Congresspersons were distinguishable by their 107th congressional pins that they wear. I also saw several gentlemen nicely dressed and surrounded by bodyguard looking fellows. It was just like something that you would see on television! I eventually found my way to the private dining area where Congressman Cooksey's party was scheduled. Realizing that I was finally in the right place, I walked in and began introducing myself to as many people as I could. One of the first people that I met happened to be the co-host of the evening Mr. Herschel Abbott, the lobbyist for Bell South. I spoke with members of Congressman Cooksey's staff, one of which, Judith Cooley, is an alumnus of my current college, and several of the teachers that were there as well. They all seemed quite interested in what I was doing at the American Institute of Physics for the summer. I told them about the work that I was doing on outreach kits for Society of Physics Students chapters and about what the kits would be used for. All of the teachers there were K-12 and they loved the idea of outreach education. They all seem to have a great interest in my future plans, i.e., was I going to become a professional educator. Their excitement about true education, not the administration behind the scene, but true teaching was very inspiring.

After cocktails, we were seated at the table where everyone continued their conversations until Congressman Cooksey made his entrance. He made his way, walking around the table shaking everyone's hand and introducing himself to each and every person. When he got to me, he immediately realized that I didn't look like any of the teachers that were around the table. He asked excitedly, "and what is it that you do?" I explained to him that I was a Society of Physics Students intern at the American Institute of Physics and that I was working on a nation wide educational outreach program, of which he seemed to think very highly.

The evening continued with an informal open table conversation with Congressman Cooksey leading the discussion. We spoke on education concerns ranging from federal and state funding to the decline in student and teacher moral. Congressman Cooksey spoke a bit on the move to increase federal funding for science education, which was followed by a speech by Mr. Abbott on the importance of increasing the strength and condition of science and mathematics education for students to better prepare them for emersion in a highly advanced and technological workplace.

After finishing desert and coffee the Congressman gave a small closing. He offered his appreciation toward all teachers and educators. He also reemphasized the importance of math and science in education. And in closing to a wonderful evening, our host, a truly down to earth nice guy, gratuitously offered us all a personally guided, private tour of the capital building.

 

 

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