Upon graduating, Tyler Gernant (COL ’04) is already making political inroads. He is currently running for the only House of Representatives seat of Montana. An avid newspaper reader and political enthusiast from a young age, Gernant says he has learned the ways politics can help make a difference in people’s lives. He spoke with The Hoya about his goals for his state and political career, as well as how his time on the Hilltop prepared him to run for Congress.
Mr. Gernant, you are running for a seat in Congress. What prompted you to make this decision?
Well, I think for me it was based on a desire to make Montana a better place for all of us. I was born in Montana, and my family lived in Montana. I’m a fourth-generation Montanan, and when I was young my family was forced by difficult economic conditions to leave. When I look around I see a lot of people faced with the same situation.
Have you always been interested in politics?
It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve read the paper since I can remember. I did a lot of work when I was at Georgetown up on the Hill and with campaigns. There was a sense that you were really doing something to help people. Getting into law practice, I felt like I was doing something to help but not as much as I could with politics.
As a Georgetown University alum, what about your experience here shaped your political aspirations?
It shaped who I am and what I believe in. Politics and the government can really help people. That’s the experience I got from doing work on the Hill.
What did you study at Georgetown?
I studied Government, with a focus in American Government, and a minor in Psychology.
Was there a specific professor at Georgetown you found particularly encouraging or inspiring?
I always loved Professor Daddio, who teaches Sociology. He’s an amazing professor. It was just really interesting. You learn all about different ways that people work in society, and he made the class really interesting.
You had a number of internships on Capitol Hill during your time at Georgetown. What did you learn from these internships?
I think probably the most valuable thing I learned was how the legislative process works in reality. There’s learning about the legislative process in a book, and there’s learning about it firsthand. It goes back to the way that government can affect people’s lives in a positive way. That was the most valuable thing I learned.
What other activities were you involved in while at Georgetown, and how did they influence your goals?
I was primarily active in politics. Obviously I also followed the basketball team pretty closely. As far as how they influenced my goals, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in life when I got to Georgetown. As far as a path I don’t know that it changed my path as much as it just prodded me along towards law school.
What changes do you hope to bring to Montana and to the country, should you be elected?
I hope to reform, reduce, renew and revitalize. I think we need to reform the tax code to make it more simple and efficient. We need to implement systemic changes to bring about the long-term reduction of the national debt. We need to incentivize the development of the new energy industry that’s based on clean, renewable and sustainable sources.
Are there any politicians you look up to? Which qualities do you admire most in them?
The person I look up to the most is Mike Mansfield, because he is the consummate statesman. He was able to disagree with people and still have respect for each other afterwards. I think that’s a quality that’s often lacking in Washington today.
After graduation, you worked on Senator John Edwards’ campaign. What was that experience like?
Tremendous. I got to travel around the country working with him. I encountered a lot of different people and different situations, and really got a sense for what the country is like and for what struggles and challenges people are facing.
What advice would you give to current Georgetown students who hope to pursue a career in politics?
I think the most important thing is to be yourself and if that’s something that interests you, it has to be something that’s at the fundamental core of your being. You have to have a strong desire to want to help people and to make government better. I would advocate taking internships. I think it’s important to get a sense of what you’re getting into before you do it. More than one [internships], in fact, would be highly advisable. In terms of classes, I think it’s probably better that you get a broad base that touches on many subjects because focusing on one subject can leave you a little too focused on one area.
– Elizabeth Rowe