Inside look at the presidential race

Second-year Miranda Cherkas shares her experience as a Fellows Ambassador for the Institute of Politics.
I enjoyed meeting these individuals because it showed me that the leaders running our country are real people, not just characters on television.

When I applied to be a Fellows Ambassador at the Institute of Politics, I never imagined myself at lunch at Giordano’s with Beth Myers – senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s recent bid for the presidency – sharing her first Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. We talked about Karl Rove, the growing expense of campaigns, and why Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential bid. By the end of my time as a Fellows Ambassador, I gained a prominent figure as a mentor, and I even convinced her to try the unconventional combination of ingredients that I enjoy on pizza – mushrooms, pineapple, and bacon.

The new Institute of Politics (IOP) opened the opportunity to me to be a Fellows Ambassador to Beth Myers as a part of their new program, which brings political figures to campus to work and interact with students. As her ambassador, I took her around campus and the city, organized her schedule, and moderated the discussion groups that she led for students. I was basically her best friend for the week (or at least I like to think of it that way).

My co-ambassador first-year Katie Oliver and I met Myers after she arrived on campus, and we greeted her with big smiles and a giant UChicago binder filled with her itinerary for the week, our emails and phone numbers, and information on everything she could ever want to know about the University. That night we joined her for dinner at Piccolo Sogno with IOP Director David Axelrod, Executive Director Darren Reisburg, and Axelrod's other Fellows Ambassadors. There were plenty of Italian appetizers and interesting conversations to go around, and I was excited when David Axelrod even ordered the same meal as I did ("I'll also have the salmon, please.").

Later in the week I introduced Myers at two student discussion groups, where she talked with them on topics of her choosing, such as the role of religion in the 2012 presidential campaign. Then I attended the panel events that she participated in, including "Campaign Strategists Reflect" and "Inside the Debates," both hosted on the UChicago campus. Katie and I also had some fun, taking Myers and her consulting partner Peter Flaherty (senior strategist for the Romney campaign) to see a main-stage show at Second City. I greatly enjoyed watching the Second City comedians poke fun at our country's politics while sitting beside the brains of the Romney campaign. Those comedians had no idea that the people they were satirizing on stage were watching in the audience.

Beyond spending time with Myers and Flaherty, my position as a Fellows Ambassador gave me the chance to meet other prominent figures in American politics, such as David Binder, focus group leader for Obama for America, and Joel Benenson, head pollster for Obama for America. When I met Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate in 2012, I was able to tell him that my parents grew up in his former Georgia congressional district, which inspired him to shake my hand and smile for the camera.

I enjoyed meeting these individuals because it showed me that the leaders running our country are real people, not just characters on television. Listening to friendly conversations between Axelrod and Myers gave me the confidence that compromise between both sides of the political spectrum is possible. I believe that they have the same goal: providing our country solutions for success, regardless of their political affiliation or background. I am grateful that I can go to them for guidance in the future as I work to achieve that same goal. 

Tagged: Institute of Politics