By: Christina Cuzzi (LNH '20)
As always, Steve Reno welcomed the group and introduced our generous sponsors: Joe Murray from Fidelity Investments and Brad Cook from Sheehan Phinney. Mr. Cook stayed with us and reviewed one of our homework assignments: The Government & Policy Knowledge and Aptitude Survey. Aside from realizing the vast institutional knowledge of Brad Cook, we had conversations around leadership and what makes a leader in a state. It was a humbling experience to learn what we did not know. Many students have been in NH for quite some time, if not their entire life, and I know we all gained knowledge we will take with us into our future endeavors.
Speaker Steve Shurtleff graciously visited the class and shared his motivations for serving the residents of NH. It was clear that he believes that the most important thing is to put politics aside and do what is right for the people. This came through as he eloquently spoke about Governor John Winant; someone he clearly has great admiration and respect for. His moving remarks encouraged me to jump right in to “Citizens of London”. With the events happening across the street, we weren’t able to visit with Governor Sununu. Instead we used the time wisely to get to know our classmates a bit deeper. We have become up to speed with the surface information, such as where each other works, but we began the process to understand what drives each of us and how we want to apply what we are learning from the amazing speakers.
The afternoon proved to be as engaging as the morning. In collaboration with AnnMarie French and Phil Sletten from the NH Fiscal Policy Institute, we participated in a hands-on exercise to present a balanced budget. Gosh, the amount of knowledge in their heads is mind boggling. The conversations that naturally came from this was impressive. Not only were we learning about what goes into the budget process, but we had productive discussions with our classmates about our opinions of the line items. It was time to get out of our seats (and things had cleared at the State House). Guided by Karen Wadsworth, Former Clark in the NH House of Representatives, we saw some of the key areas of the iconic building. From the Hall of Flags to the Senate and House Chambers, to the various leadership offices, we heard from additional movers and shakers on how they keep the process ticking. We were even better prepared for the conversations given the homework assignment to meet with a legislator and could share some key takeaways. It can be complicated, but clearly a well-oiled machine that takes great partnerships between members and staffers.
We wrapped up the day with Dr. Yvonne Goldsberry from the NH Endowment for Health. This was a perfect way to end a highly charged day. We asked ourselves, “how can we use power to make change happen”. We all have power and need to channel that. We need to approach what we do with confidence and authority. Looking around the table at my classmates, I was reminded the power and influence in the room is great and continues to excite me to see the difference we all will make.
The day was engaging and a reminder that we “don’t know what we don’t know,” in the words of the great Dr. Reno. There is no better place to help us see the influence we can have as citizens, than in our state capitol. Whether we run for office, take leadership roles with our employers or lead volunteer initiatives, we need to be true to what drives us. We all have things to offer and the combination of what we have learned, and our intrinsic power continues to expand our toolbox. In all, the day was inspiring and continued to help us become informed and engaged leaders.