For 46 years, Washington Seminar young scholars have traveled to Washington, D.C., every year to ask questions.

The 47th edition of the program this year will see the tables turned. When Craig and Parker Washington Seminar participants are in D.C. for their week of field research, they will be interviewed and their opinions will be included in a report to Congress initiated by then-President Barack Obama on Dec. 23, 2016.

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service asked the Washington Seminar scholars to sit down with commission members and staff to provide their views on a number of issues including the Selective Service System, the military draft, military service and public service.

“Seeing as these issues have a direct effect on young people, the commission wants to know how young people view those very issues,” said commission member Tom Kilgannon. “I have worked with Washington Seminar students in the past and found them to be serious scholars. I know they will be a great resource for our final report.”

Craig Washington Seminar director Samantha Riehbrandt said she is honored to have her students participate in the commission’s report.

“In the past, we have been on the listening end of our briefings in Washington,” she said. “This year, we will be presenting our ideas to Washington officials. The students are all eager to take part in this exceptional experience.”

Riehbrandt has decided to break up the 39 scholars into teams concentrating on the issues the commission has asked them to comment on. Examples of issues being considered include:

  • Should young women as well as young men be required to register with Selective Service?
  • Should the draft be re-established?
  • If the draft comes back, should women be subjected to it, seeing as they now serve side-by-side with men in combat roles?
  • Should public service, such as the Peace Corps or private groups such as the Sierra Club, be mandatory or voluntary? Should people be able to earn credits to be used toward college tuition, for example, when completing a certain amount of time performing public service?

In addition to the commission presentation, Craig Washington Seminar scholars will receive briefings for Wisconsin members of Congress including Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson as well as Reps. Mark Pocan and Bryan Steil.

Craig Gilbert, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Washington bureau chief, will brief the scholars at the National Press Club, and lobbyist Bill Viney will host the scholars at the BGR (Barbour Griffith Rogers) office, an annual event for the past 10 years.

Washington Seminar was founded by Parker social studies teacher John Eyster in 1973 when he took a group of seven students to Washington, D.C., in a station wagon to conduct a week of field research. The program has grown to include both Janesville high schools and now serves as a model for other programs in Wisconsin.

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