Advocacy: From the National History Center

Historians on the Hill

Justene G. Hill, April 2016

As historians, we recognize that historical perspectives can offer us more complex and more nuanced understandings of the world we live in today. At the National History Center, we use this message to connect historians to policy makers through our Congressional Briefings program. To foster deeper relationships between historians and policy makers, we have created Historians on the Hill. This group comprises congressional staffers who have undergraduate and graduate degrees in history. Our goal with Historians on the Hill is to forge relationships with Hill staffers who are interested in working with us to augment our Congressional Briefings program. By partnering with Hill staffers, we will have a network of people with whom we can communicate about future Congressional Briefings. Ultimately, we hope that Historians on the Hill will help us advance the National History Center’s mission of bringing historians’ perspectives on modern policy issues to the public sphere.

A subset of Historians on the Hill is the Historians on the Hill Advisory Council. The Advisory Council is a small group of people, including Hill staffers, professors, and historians working in the federal government, who strategize with us to make the Congressional Briefings program reach broader audiences on Capitol Hill. We look to this group to help us accomplish two overarching goals. The first is to increase the number of Hill staffers who attend our briefings, thereby expanding the draw of the program. We will look to our Advisory Council for advice on the most effective strategies to attract Hill staffers to our briefings, from rethinking our social media outreach to tailoring the briefings to address hot-button congressional debates. Our second goal in forming the Historians on the Hill Advisory Council is to use the members as a resource to inform us about the most important policy debates occurring in Congress today.

There are four members of the Historians on the Hill Advisory Council. The chair of the Advisory Council is Molly Michelmore, associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University. Michelmore, a former congressional staffer, is a historian of 20th-century American political history and author of Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics, and the Limits of American Liberalism (2011). Two other members are current Hill staffers who have attended NHC Congressional Briefings. They have already offered valuable insight into how staffers on Capitol Hill can use historians’ perspectives to make policy recommendations to members of Congress. Sandra Delany, a graduate of the University of Maryland, is the speechwriter for Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. John Richter is the legislative assistant for Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico. Our fourth Advisory Council member is Washington, DC, writer Marc Levinson. Levinson, a historian of economic and American business history, has authored several books and articles on business development and finance during the 20th century.

In the next month, the Advisory Council will meet to discuss a targeted campaign for advertising our upcoming Congressional Briefings, with the goal of increasing Hill staffer attendance by 20 percent. The Advisory Council’s long-term goal for 2016 is to increase Hill staffer attendance by 50 percent. (Watch AHA Today at blog.historians.­org for interviews with Advisory Council members.)

We are excited about cultivating a dynamic relationship with the Historians on the Hill group and the Historians on the Hill Advisory Council. By augmenting our outreach campaign through a sustained effort to attract congressional staffers to our Congressional Briefings program, we will also be connecting lawmakers to historians working on topics of legislative importance. Historians on the Hill and its Advisory Council are crucial allies in promoting the National History Center’s mission of reinforcing historical knowledge in the nation’s policy-making sphere.

Justene G. Hill is program coordinator for the Historians on the Hill program at the National History Center. She received her PhD in US history from Princeton University in 2015.


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