The Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) fellows for the Fall 2023 semester sat down with The Hoya Sept. 8 to discuss the integrity of the upcoming U.S. elections, career highlights and their career advice for university students.
This semester’s fellows include Cristóbal Alex, former Deputy White House Cabinet Secretary for the Biden administration; Brenda Gianiny, a Republican pollster; Joe Hack (COL ’09), former U.S. Senate Chief of Staff; Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political analyst; Emily Horne, former National Security Council spokesperson for the Biden administration; and Craig Minassian, former HBO producer. Alex could not attend the conversation with The Hoya.
All fellows will host discussion groups with students throughout the semester to discuss modern political issues and gather advice from students. These sessions will start the week of Sept. 25.
What is the biggest political issue facing Gen Z today?
Gianiny: I think polarization. I think just how divided the country is. It makes it so hard to pass any legislation that benefits the country or that you can really have an impact on.
Hack: I think the future of democracy is somewhat in question. What that looks like and if the country we grew up in will be the country that you all will inherit.
Henderson: What is America supposed to represent? What is it supposed to look like? Is it an inclusive country? The issue of diversity and inclusivity and pluralism? I think those are at the core of a lot of the division and polarization.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Republican and Democratic parties this election cycle?
Horne: I would say that the lack of faith in institutions and the mistrust that has been sown about our ability to hold free and fair elections is something that I worry about a lot. I know that it does very much hurt our standing on the world stage when our both allies and adversaries can no longer count on the United States of America having a peaceful transition of power.
Minassian: Election is giving people a reason to get out there and vote. Slightly different for each party in this case, what motivated them to want to cast their vote for their nominees is going to be a challenge.
How do you feel about deep fakes and AI (Artificial Intelligence) impacting this year’s elections, specifically with social media?
Henderson: Often you just want to believe what you see because it confirms whatever sort of political belief you have anyway about an idea or opponent. I think this is going to be a major and frightening trend that we see in the election.
Minassian: It’s frightening. I just think we don’t know yet the real impact, and that’s frightening. You just have no idea how it’s going to impact this one.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you had that you would give to students in their college careers?
Horne: If you get a big job when you are not ready for it, you will make mistakes that will follow you throughout your career. Be ready for the opportunities when they come, but don’t push yourself to be ready for something that you’re not ready for just because it sounds impressive.
Minassain: Be open to ideas, opportunities. Now’s the time to do it, even if you don’t think it’s directly related to what you may do. Recognize that you don’t actually know where your career may take you.
What has been a highlight or memory from your career?
Horne: The first time that you walk on Air Force One – it is objectively the coolest thing I will ever do in my life. Being able to send my mom a picture of my name card for my seat on Air Force One was an ‘I made you proud mom and dad’ kind of moment.
Hack: In my capacity as a lobbyist, I actually worked on the marriage equality bill and getting that passed. So that was a lot of blood, sweat and tears professionally.
Minassain: When I was fortunate enough to work in the White House, every day walking into the building. I just couldn’t believe that that’s what I had the opportunity to do.
The fellows also answered a round of lightning questions, including who will be the Republican National Committee nominee for president, their favorite internship they had and their favorite spots in the District.
An unabridged audio recording of the conversation between The Hoya and the GU Politics Fellows will be available on thehoya.com following publication.