portrait of congress

This is an essay that provides you with a very flexible framework through which to express your knowledge of legislatures and legislative behavior, especially as that knowledge pertains to the US Congress. Even if you choose a very informal approach, please include Turabian citations and a bibliography. Have fun with this exercise; you’re unlikely to see anything similar during the rest of your academic career.

Please submit a 5 page paper in response to this single question…

You are old now, having completed a distinguished career in the House or Senate. Though you live in the East, you have come to your ranch in Montana to prepare the lecture you have been invited to give at Oxford. You find this a fitting way to summarize your own illustrious work, both for yourself and for the hundreds of foreign students to whom you will be speaking. You are often compared to Tip O’Neill, both for your incomparable verbal skills and for your talent as a politician. And because you are old, because you know that you could be called at any moment, you want this lecture to be an intriguing portrait of a political life gone right, a political life that conveys both the enormous difficulties and the equally enormous rewards of knowing that your 30-year commitment has made a difference, no matter how slight, in your country’s future.
It is dusk now. You cast your fly line in graceful loops through the evening mist. Water clear as moonlight swirls around your feet, passing over polished stones from the basement of time. (Norman Maclean.) As you follow the nearly invisible journey of your fly in the current, you are suddenly struck by a quality of Nature that has never lodged itself in your awareness with such force. The river flows from a bend in the canyon. It swirls where you stand and flows on, relentless, unstoppable, yet its course altered in some minute way by your presence. And then it hits you. You are living a metaphor that perfectly represents your career and the venerable institution you served. Congress flows through time like the river, emerging from the shadows of the past and disappearing into a future you cannot clearly see in the gathering dusk. Your presence has made a difference in a little area of this vast flow, but the stream runs on, powerful, unstoppable; runs on so that others can step in and offer their own contribution.
For the week that you have spent here, your mind has resisted writing a word. You have thought of fish, of death, of those who have slipped into your life and left just as mysteriously. Yet now you are suddenly grasped by the desire — no, the necessity — to write. The time has come, as you knew it would. Now your study beckons, its book-lined shelves and overstuffed armchair the perfect environment in which to let your mind flow back through time, from those early days to your years of power.

You will compose a lecture that is both a warm autobiographical sketch and a serious academic portrait of Congress. And because you will be speaking in the UK, a nation with a parliamentary system, you will use comparisons when necessary to make certain that every student in attendance understands the nature and uniqueness of the American Congress.

I, your publisher, impatiently await a draft of your lecture, as I wish to include it as an introduction to the masterful book you have written on the subject you know as well as any living American.

 
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