PROFILE: UC Alum Stratman Loves Life On The Hill
After graduating from UC with his history degree, Sam Stratman has found service on Capitol Hill to be a life he would recommend to others.
Date: 12/15/2003 8:00:00 AMUC political science students recently got a special invitation to think about a career in Washington, from someone with the credibility to say it can be done.
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
"Public service has enriched me, because it has given me the opportunity to help people," said UC alumnus Sam Stratman, currently working in Congress as the spokesman for the House International Relations Committee. "The $200,000 or $300,000 I could earn down on K Street (as a lobbyist) does not excite me as much as serving on Capitol Hill. And in your own chase for status, your chase for the big salary, you should alternatively think about how you too can best serve the public interest."
Stratman visited campus in October, meeting with faculty and students, including Brian Lawson's "The American Congress" class out of the political science department of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.
He offered students a whirlwind summary of how he went from a kid growing up in rural Wilmington, Ohio, to a leading administrative position on one of the most influential committees in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Stratman graduated from UC with a degree in history in 1985. ("I wasn't the most stellar student," he claims. "I preferred to sit in the back of class.")
But he had a natural curiosity, particularly about public affairs, and his time at UC, more than anything else, taught him how to learn, he says.
After a brief stint back in Wilmington writing for the local paper, he made the big leap to Washington in 1987, joining the staff of an Illinois congressman.
He told Lawson's students an amusing anecdote about his early days working in Congress, and how the late Sonny Bono brought a lengthy and contentious committee meeting to a quick end by ordering pizza for everyone, which is an old Hollywood trick for getting late parties to wrap-up. Pizza is a quickbread, and quickbreads make people sleepy, Bono later explained.
"That's sometimes the way things work in Washington," Stratman said. "It's a very human place, and it's populated by people just like you. I know that, because I used to be here."
Congress can be difficult. About 7,000 bills are introduced in an average year, and fewer than 200 usually end up as laws. But when Stratman gets a chance to work on a measure like the Global AIDS bill, like he is now, his job becomes tremendously rewarding. It can also be challenging and difficult, like it was when he made a recent visit to Iraq.
The House International Relations Committee is chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde and deals with bills relating to international affairs. Recent hearings have dealt with Iraq and Afghanistan, but the committee deals with a wide-ranging variety of topics, such as a recent hearing about the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
It's a job Stratman has come to love, and he invited his student audience to think hard about public service. Washington is about 10 years away, he says, from a retirement crisis, where people who have been the backbone of government for a generation will be calling it a career.
"After 18 years on (Capitol) Hill, as a small-town Midwestern kid who went to a great school, I am not cynical," said Stratman. "Much of Washington is littered with people who are. But the city is home to some of the smartest, most resourceful and dedicated people I've ever had the privilege of meeting."