Full disclosure: The majority of my political knowledge stems from watching “Scandal.” Which is to say, I know a lot.
Fortunately, the 2015 NAA Capitol Conference was a valuable experience for government affairs directors and Shonda Rhimes bingers alike.
Tuesday kicked off with world-renowned photographer Platon, who has captured the essence of everyone from Prince to Putin. The charismatic photographer shared behind-the-scenes anecdotes from his most interesting photo shoots, confessing Christopher Walken is the “weirdest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” recalling Putin’s favorite Beatle (Paul) and detailing his nerve-wracking journey to meet Snowden.
Surprisingly, Platon was not available to photograph the conference.
I had the pleasant task of following Platon as the presenter for one of several Advocacy Education Sessions that followed—my particular session focusing on media relations. Other education topics ranged from effective Congressional staff communication to strategies for becoming a super advocate and improving digital communications.
In between sessions, HUD Secretary Julián Castro delivered a luncheon address that applauded NAA members for the vital role they play in the American economy.
“Every day you make a lasting difference in the lives of Americans all over the nation,” Castro said. “Your work helps make their good quality of life possible.”
Castro, now a renter in Washington, D.C., touched on the need to build up the affordable housing supply nationwide and outlined many of HUD’s goals in the coming year—including introducing scholarship programs, expanding Section 8 resources and continuing to support the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
“With unemployment at 5.5 percent—the lowest it’s been since spring 2008—now the question is, how do we continue that momentum and build on that progress,” he said. “We must give every American the opportunity to put a roof over their head, have a job that fulfills them and live in a safe neighborhood.”
Castro said HUD is a friend of the NAA and wants to give the association its most value commodity: Information.
He had no opinion on Christopher Walken.
Rounding out the day’s speakers, David Gregory offered his insight on interviewing the world’s top leaders.
“First of all, yes—I am actually this tall,” joked the former NBC Chief White House Correspondent and former host of NBC’s Meet the Press. “I like to give people that moment. I was already aware.”
Gregory recalled his experiences covering the O.J. Simpson trial—“I can recite the testimony like it’s poetry”—to 9/11 and the Timothy McVeigh trial.
On a lighter note, he also described his affinity for Vice President Joe Biden—“the gift who keeps on giving” for the press.
Gregory concluded with his thoughts on the 2016 Presidential race, noting that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s likely run could be more difficult because she “doesn’t have real competition in her party.” On the Republican side, Gregory said the big money is behind former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Ultimately, Gregory says Americans must evaluate each candidate’s leadership abilities.
“How are they going to react to something that none of us have planned for, because that’s usually what defines a presidency.”
Olivia Pope would agree.