Park City Teen Recounts Meeting Fauci, Multiple U.S. Senators and More
It was the first time in 33 years that a Park City High School student was selected to attend the prestigious annual Youth Senate event held over five days last month by the U.S. Senate.
Park City High School senior Caroline Waldmann spoke to KPCW about her experience interacting virtually with Utah’s senators, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, a Supreme Court justice and more.
Park City High School Senior and Co-President of the National Honor Society Caroline Waldmann said they met three times a day via Zoom and that the experience exceeded her high expectations. She outlined some of the presenters she spoke to or heard from during the week-long event. The list was long and included retired astronaut Scott Kelly (twin brother of Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly) and senators from both sides of the aisle.
“Dr. Sheri [Sharon] Milgram is the Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education at the NIH was incredible, and she spoke after Dr. Fauci, which when I was talking with the other delegates, the person who we all knew and were super excited for with Dr. Fauci,” she said. “And then Dr. Sharon Milgrom started her Q&A, and it was just so approachable and so friendly and so knowledgeable she was awesome, Norah O'Donnell was really cool. One of this Wisconsin Senator, Tammy Baldwin, talked with us on one of the last days, and she was really awesome. Regina McCarthy was cool. Justice Clarence Thomas was cool. There's just so many impressive and knowledgeable people."
Waldmann said it wasn't only partisan politicians they interacted with during the week. She told KPCW the people participating were honest and accessible and inspired her to realize she has many paths to pursue her interests in politics, public service, and policy. She said the experience didn't change her view on what she wants to do but rather how she wants to get there.
"But every speaker was talking about what they did in life to get to what job they currently have,” she said. “Not a single person said that they planned on doing this from the start, or that this was their dream job all along, and they designed their college major around it. Everyone said the opposite, actually, which really shaped my view on what I want to major in in college. Now I'm much more open to doing things that interest me, which does overlap with what I wanted to do before, but I'm not so worried about having to fit public policy centric classes into my major."
Waldmann said President Joe Biden left them with ideas that resonated. She said the realities of bipartisan work in Washington are often not represented in the media.
"I feel like there are lots of little nuggets of wisdom that each speaker said,” she said. “We got a video from President Biden, and he said that I have it written down, he said it's okay to question another person's judgment, but it's never okay to question another person's motive. That was when he was talking about differences in politics and polarization. I thought that was really well-grounded. Tammy Baldwin said something similar about working across the aisle as a Senator, which I think is really pertinent with today's polarization. The overwhelming sentiment that I got from every single speaker was that party aside. They were doing this because they wanted to be a public servant, and they were working with people across the aisle, even if the media was not necessarily focusing on that in the news, that it was publishing."
Waldmann said it was a little disappointing that COVID-19 prevented the 104 Youth Senators from meeting face to face. Still, she thinks they may have had higher profile leaders participating because the event was virtual.
Waldmann is unsure where she will go to college. She said she hasn't heard from all the colleges where she applied. Final letters should be coming in by the middle of April.