GW hosts boot camp for veterans seeking public office

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Ilana Katz.

Former U.S. Marine Seth Lynn said he did not have political aspirations when he first attended a training workshop to run for office four years ago. But since then, he has taken the idea to GW and helped launch a political boot camp geared toward veterans.

Lynn, now the director of GW’s Center for Second Service, organized the third annual veterans-focused workshop in the School of Media and Public Affairs building Saturday and Sunday, featuring panels on grassroots campaign strategy and media relations.

“I saw a huge need for this because the folks that I served with are phenomenal leaders, they’re selfless, and we need more of these people in public office,” Lynn, who is also an adjunct professor at the University, said. Lynn left active duty in 2008, serving in Kuwait, Iraq and Japan.

The two-day program, hosted in coordination with the Graduate School of Political Management, brought in political consultants to field questions and share campaign strategies. Adjunct professor Mark Meissner, who teaches a class on campaigning for public office, focused on fundraising and communication. He advised veterans to build compelling stories to appeal to voters.

“Brag about your service, brag about your awards,” Meissner told the room full of veterans. “Don’t assume that your stories are boring.”

Lynn said the event showed the University’s commitment to veterans initiatives – a population of focus for the school in recent years. GW hired retired Vice Admiral Mel Williams as the inaugural senior associate dean for military and veterans initiatives this month, and has been featured as a top military-friendly college for several years running.

The Center for Second Service, which brought in its first class of  veteran fellows this January, has spent the semester learning to run for Congress and other public roles. Lynn said the Center for Second Service  recently expanded its projects, launching a monthly speaker series in March. It has invited former Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. – the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress – to speak at GW next month.

Joshua Edwards, a student from Florida and disabled veteran, flew to D.C. for the weekend-long workshop.

“I’ve talked about getting into politics and when I heard about the workshops, I immediately booked plane tickets,” Edwards said.

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