Got a bit choked up at that one…
This makes me so happy.
I had a professor once—he’s since passed away from a shockingly sudden and aggressive cancer—who had worked in DC for a while. His field was clinical child psychology, helping deaf children, who face unique challenges. I interviewed him for a paper I had to do for a seminar capstone class that was supposed to help me decide what to do with my life. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I still have no idea what I’m doing.)
Anyway, in the interview, he talked about “Potomac fever,” which he said was the mad giddiness that sweeps over people when they realize that the policies they’re working on will actually make a difference in the lives of real people all across the country. He worked on an initiative related to hearing tests for children—getting hearing impairment noticed earlier makes a big difference in how easily kids can integrate solutions into their lives, particularly at school. My fiance has been deaf in one ear since he was a baby, and it often wasn’t taken seriously by his teachers, so I know how tough it can be for kids and their parents to get the kind of assistance they need.
But that’s stuck with me, over the years: Potomac fever. The insane true belief that you’re doing something that has a tangible end result. That your efforts, the policies and legislation you work on, make peoples’ lives better.
I can only imagine what Biden felt at that moment, but I like to think it was gratitude. Being able to help people is a tremendous privilege, made possible by our deeply dysfunctional but still amazing political system.
Democracy, even as flawed as ours is, is still beautiful.
But that’s stuck with me, over the years: Potomac fever. The insane true belief that you’re doing something that has a tangible end result.
I’ve lost that. I changed what I was doing because I lost that. I wish I could get it back.
Perhaps it is not so much that you have lost that, but that the focus needs to change.