Peter Madigan ’81 reaped many rewards during his years at the University of Maine: interesting classes, attentive professors, and lots of friends and extracurricular activities to keep him busy outside of class.
But nothing compared with the life-changing semester he spent in Washington, D.C., as part of UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program, according to Madigan, who says those five months in his junior year paved the way for his successful 20-year career in government, legislative and political affairs on Capitol Hill and in the Reagan and Bush administrations.
“There was no single larger impact on the course of my life and career than that award. It totally changed my life by allowing me to use the education I received in political science and broadcasting at UMaine and affording me a unique opportunity to work with Maine’s Congressional Delegation.”
Now a partner with the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm of Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, Madigan has given a generous gift to the internship program to help ensure that other young people also will have an opportunity to learn first-hand how government functions and about the responsibilities that congressional offices hold.
Assisting then Sens. William Cohen and George Mitchell and Reps. Olympia Snowe and David Emery, Madigan, one of four UMaine students to be selected for the internship program, says his days were jam packed as he monitored hearings and debates, wrote press releases, delivered documents to the Capitol, conducted research, attended meetings and events, and corresponded with constituents.
“There were lots of late nights,” says Madigan who took to the Beltway immediately, reveling in the fast-paced, exciting lifestyle as well as the up close view of national politics.
He developed a close relationship with Rep. Emery, then House Republican Chief Deputy Whip, who made sure the young intern received his share of challenging opportunities including helping research a piece of legislation which ultimately became a Supreme Court case known as Goldwater vs. Carter.
Madigan says his big break came when Emery offered him a job after graduation as Floor Assistant.
“A week after I graduated from UMaine I was working with congressional leaders in a fairly high profile position.”
One thing led to another, and he soon was appointed Legislative Assistant to Budget Director David Stockman. In quick succession he served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs for Secretary James A. Baker and his Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Legislative Affairs; and then Chief of Staff to United States Trade Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick. He is vice-chairman of the International Republican Institute, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). The IRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advances freedom and democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civic institutions, open elections, good governance and the rule of law.
Over the years, Madigan has been an executive and legislative branch strategist for Fortune 100 companies, non-profit organizations, and small business and foreign heads of state. He helped expand trade and business opportunities within the U.S. and abroad, reduce Congressional barriers for corporate mergers and acquisitions, and eliminate unnecessary regulations. He worked on key legislation including the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement, the Sarbanes Oxley Act, and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
“UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program was the spark that started it all,” he says.
His gift, says Madigan, is “a way for me to give back.
“I know the kind of expenses young men and women will incur if they live in Washington and I don’t want that to be a barrier to participating in the Congressional Internship Program. They may not necessarily end up working in government or politics as I did, but they’ll be able to better understand what it takes to affect policy and legislation.”
The gift from Madigan is a “huge benefit,” says Associate Professor of Political Science Rich Powell, who directs the internship program. “We are so thankful for Mr. Madigan’s generosity. His gift will be used to enhance the experience for students by providing additional opportunities for them while they’re in Washington and by making it more affordable for them to participate.”
Over the years, UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program has continued to be a draw for students.
“There are always far more applications than positions,” Powell says.
UMaine’s internship program is unique because students are paid a monthly salary by the congressional offices themselves which helps defray the costs of living in D.C. Selected each year according to their academic records as well as personal maturity and professionalism, the young interns work hard and are given an extraordinary amount of responsibility, an indication of the reputation and success of UMaine’s program.
Powell isn’t surprised to hear about Madigan’s remarkable experience as a congressional intern. “Almost universally the students say it’s the highlight of their college careers. They learn so much about government that they don’t get in the classroom, and they almost always have direct contact with their senators and representatives. They pick up some wonderful professional skills that help them no matter what career they choose.”
And, like Madigan, many UMaine students receive job offers in Washington, D.C., based on their stellar performance as interns.
“They make a great impression,” Powell says.
Meghan Simonds ’08 certainly did. Now working as a Legislative Correspondent on military, veterans and foreign affairs issues in Sen. Susan Collins’ Washington, D.C., office, Simonds was a 2007 participant in UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program. She was assigned to Sen. Collins’ scheduling office where she supported the Senator and her two executive assistants/schedulers. Her job was to assist the schedulers in arranging the Senator’s schedule, reviewing the invitations that poured into the office each day, receiving guests and constituents for personal meetings, and attending to any errands. “It allowed me to see how precious a senator’s time is and how hard they work to try and allocate it to meet all the needs of their constituents,” Simonds says. “The best part was that it allowed me to create a personal relationship with Sen. Collins.”
Simonds also was given countless invaluable opportunities through her internship, such as watching Senate floor debate and committee work and attending congressional receptions all over the Hill. “As a result of my internship, I started learning the ins-and-outs of Congress in a way that I could never learn from reading a text book. The UMaine Congressional Internship Program is learning American politics in real life. Your campus becomes Washington, D.C.; your classroom becomes the Capitol; your teachers become Congressmen, Senators, and their staff; and your textbook becomes legislation and policy.”
Even before she graduated, the Bangor native was offered the exciting, full-time position in Washington she now holds. “I love my job,” Simonds says. “As a Legislative Correspondent, my position is all about constituent relations. I respond in writing and over the phone to constituents’ questions and concerns in the areas of military, veterans, and foreign affairs. I also support our defense team, which is responsible for committee hearing preparation as Sen. Collins is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s very busy and fast-paced. Every day I learn something new about world affairs, veterans’ benefits, and how the Department of Defense works. I’ve really gotten to learn a lot about current conflicts in the Middle East, including Iraq. Thanks to UMaine’s Congressional Internship Program, I have so much knowledge and experience! Here I am at 22 with an exciting career already in the making.”
Simonds says Peter Madigan’s gift is one more reason to feel proud of being a UMaine alumna. She is grateful for “mentors like Peter who acknowledge the impact a college program made in their life, recognize that it’s also made a difference in the lives of others, and then contribute resources to make sure the program becomes even better for future students.”
“Peter is a great model and an example of how a UMaine grad can do amazing things with their life. I really look forward to giving back to the program when I’m in the same position,” says Simonds who has met Madigan and told him personally about her wonderful experience in the Congressional Internship Program.
In appreciation of his UMaine experience, Madigan has agreed to host at his office the 50th anniversary celebration of the Congressional Internship Program on March 12, 2009, during the annual UMaine Honors College visit to Washington, D.C.
He remembers with fondness his busy days at the university. “I got the full UMaine experience,” says Madigan who joined Beta Theta Pi, was elected president of the rugby team, and obtained valuable hands-on broadcast experience as co-announcer of the UMaine hockey games on the student radio station. He traveled with the team and worked alongside nationally known sports broadcaster Gary Thorne, who began his own illustrious career as a UMaine hockey announcer and business law professor.
Madigan praises his professors whom he calls excellent teachers and caring mentors. Chief among them was Political Science Professor Ken Hayes who died in 2000. Hayes, who was Madigan’s advisor, encouraged him to apply for the Congressional Internship Program. “He was well known as a fairly liberal Democrat, and we would often argue politics,” says Madigan, whose views differed greatly from those of his professor.
“The beauty of talking to Ken was that I learned early on always to listen to the other side so you know where they’re coming from and can understand what makes them tick.”
Image Description: Peter Madigan