The Kennedy School teaches students lessons in policy and politics inside and outside the classroom. The energy of the Forum spills into class discussions and informs student conversations. Some students don’t just talk politics, they live it. Many have come from political posts prior to HKS and others are considering government careers after graduation.
The Citizen sat down with Frank Broomell, a M.P.P. student at the Kennedy School, who is currently running for US Congress. Broomell is vying for the Democratic Party nomination in New Jersey’s First Congressional District.
Q: We’ve heard you’re running for Congress, could you tell us a bit more about why you decided to run?
FB: For me, it’s about public service. Doing something bigger than yourself is what led me to join the Marines after college and brought me here to the Kennedy School and why I decided to run.
I grew up in South Jersey. My grandfather was an Italian immigrant. My parents are in the community, and my mom is a school secretary. Both made sacrifices so my brothers and I could go to college. We were the first in our family to finish college. I saw those sacrifices and wanted to give back to the nation that had afforded our family such opportunities.
I served four years in the Marines, including two deployments to Afghanistan. During this time, I learned a lot. A lot about people. A lot about organizations. A lot about policy. For graduate school, I wanted a place that was committed to public service where I could put these lessons together to inform policy discussions. The Kennedy School is such a place.
Our Congressman resigned in February. It looked like only one candidate was going to run to replace him, so I decided to get involved and give voters a choice this election. We signed up enough voters to get on the ballot for the primary to be held June 3rd. Now some more folks have stood up to the district’s political machine, and it will be a tough fight this Spring. With support, I hope to get the nomination.
Initially, I thought my age would be a negative factor in the election. As I got to talking with folks in my District, they were very appreciative of someone, especially a young person, taking a stand against the longstanding political machine and wanted to actually have a choice in the coming primary.
Q: How do you think HKS has helped you in your decision to run?
FB: The students here have been very supportive. Each person brings their own expertise to this place. I’ve been meeting with friends and fellow students to get advice and learn from their varied life lessons. In addition, the classes and the core have been helpful. As much as folks want to complain about classes or homework, for me I think the coursework has helped give me more of an overview of some of the important concepts we’ll be facing when we have policy discussions post-HKS.
Q: Many students at HKS have political aspirations either here in the US or internationally, what advice would you give them given this experience?
FB: My advice is: be true to yourself and identify your opportunity. If you see an opportunity that is right for you, jump in and fight hard. In this campaign, I have had the chance to speak with many folks in my District. They’ve asked me about my views, and given me the chance to talk about my positions on the issues facing our District. In fact, our big debate is mid-May, right after HKS final exams. Through it all, you have to be true to yourself and do what works for you. Being part of something greater than yourself means finding where you fit in, what you can do for your community, your state, your country, or your world.
Q: HKS students come from a variety of backgrounds, could you tell us a bit more about your background?
I’m fortunate to come from a middle-class background. My District is a middle-class district. I had the chance to go to college at George Washington, and while there I made the decision to join the military. In the Marines, I served with a helicopter unit then an air intelligence element in Afghanistan. Every chance I had, I chose to go home to South Jersey.
Q: Thank you for your military service. How has your service informed your time here at HKS?
The military is really a cross-section of America. In the Marines, we had all types of people, each choosing to serve their country through military service. I learned a great deal from others in the Marines as well as in my trainings. It was a tremendous education in leadership and organization.
At HKS, I’ve put these lessons into my coursework in management and policy analysis. Walking into the classroom with work experience, especially the military, gives you a framework with which to understand and apply course concepts.
Q: The Kennedy School motto is to “ask what you can do.” What does this mean to you?
FB: It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. Public service comes in many forms, whether it be Teach for America, the Peace Corps, or the military. The military folks here at HKS have great respect for students who devoted their time through focused public services experiences like these. For me, public service is about giving back for opportunities received. My community in South Jersey has given my family and I a great deal, and it would be an honor to represent and serve them.
Q: How can Kennedy School students find out more about you and your campaign?
FB: The easiest way to find out more about myself and the campaign is via my website (http://www.frankbroomell.com/) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FrankBroomellforCongress). If folks had a free few days, we’ll be doing a big push in May before the June 3rd primary here in the District. The student reception here at the Kennedy School has been great, and several students pitched in to help with both time and financial support. Every dollar helps, and with a campaign like this we see the impact of every dollar in every door we knock on and every piece of information we put out. Consider donating your time or giving financial support, it really does help.