I realized it was probably time to go home and take a nap when, on Friday afternoon, my computer let me know it didnâ€™t like the word â€œanalyzation.â€ I had to ask a coworker if analyzation was a word, and when she answered with the appropriate term, â€œanalysis,â€ all I could do was say, â€œOh yeah, thatâ€™s better!â€
Exhaustion has indeed set in after a whirlwind journey to our nationâ€™s capitol earlier this week with the University of Minnesotaâ€™s U-Lead Advisory Academy. Early mornings and late nights â€” with miles of walking in between â€” made this a trip to remember.
In all, 23 Minnesotans who have some sort of tie to U of M Extension (mine is through 4-H) embarked on the journey to Washington, D.C., to meet the movers and shakers in our political arena.
Up to this point in our 10-month program, we have met at various locales around the state to talk about leadership styles, hone our communication skills and tour research farms and facilities of the university.
We have just two sessions left â€” a trip to Itasca State Park in May, and a visit to Duluth in June â€” before our graduation in mid-July.
Our five-day stay in Washington, D.C., was filled with new experiences for me. In addition to my first of multiple travels via the Metro, I took my first taxi ride, had my first trolley ride and tasted Maryland crab cakes for the first time. Iâ€™m sure there were other firsts too, but Iâ€™m so tired right now I canâ€™t think straight.Â (Visit my blog online in the coming week to see photos and read more about the Cherry Blossom Festival and the U.S. Botanic Garden, as well as a few other highlights from my trip.)
Throughout these past several months, Iâ€™ve received many questions about the U-Lead program â€” what it is, what we do and what we are learning.
Perhaps the greatest thing I took away from this trip is that we, as individuals, all have a voice â€” and our legislators want to hear that voice as they work in Washington, D.C., on legislation for our country.
Whether in a meeting with Rep. Tim Walz, visiting with Sen. Amy Klobucharâ€™s staff, meeting with a 20-year lobbyist or visiting with an American Farm Bureau policy director, the message we heard over and over again this week is that our legislators want to hear our voice about laws that donâ€™t work, laws that do and legislation that will be appearing before them.
The voice of one constituent is greater than the voice of 20 lobbyists.
Learning that makes me want to ask my county commissioner to consider collaborations; send a letter to my state representative and senator to complain about the lack of transportation funding for rural Minnesotaâ€™s roads and bridges; and fire off an e-mail to Sen. Klobucharâ€™s office to thank her for the work she has done to fund broadband expansion (and complain that my parents still canâ€™t access anything but dial-up Internet down on the farm).
I realize that as a journalist, I probably shouldnâ€™t make any of those comments. Most people can separate their job from their personal life, but itâ€™s not that simple for a newspaper reporter.
Our last U-Lead session focused on ethical leadership. For me, ethical journalism means remaining neutral to any subject â€” political or otherwise â€” when covering the news. I find it much more challenging to keep my sources from becoming friends â€” but thatâ€™s an area of ethics that is difficult to adhere to in a small community.
If it werenâ€™t for the relationships, the friendships, Iâ€™ve forged in this business, the life of a journalist would be an awfully lonely one.