Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

D.C. Wonks Get Out of 'Bubble' on Millennial Trains Project

Courtesy Cameron Hardesty
Hardesty’s “Visual Poetry Project” involved photographing quotes in locations including at “Cloud Gate,” aka “The Bean,” in Chicago.

Millennials are supposed to be lazy, indecisive parasites who rarely stray from the family nest — unless it’s to suck down an iced mocha-choca-latted calorie bomb from Starbucks while sponging free Wi-Fi.

Just don’t tell that to the two dozen, 20-something overachievers who spent 10 extra-long days (standard routine: head out around 6 a.m., turn in after midnight) crisscrossing the country to make this a better world for all of us.

These particular go-getters are the inaugural class of travelers to partake in the Millennial Trains Project, an outfit dedicated to sparking creative thinking by showing would-be thought leaders the big, beautiful world beyond their cubicles.

Having just returned from their first, crowd-funded nationwide tour, MTP spokeswoman Jessica Straus, a former aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the group is very excited about rounding up new recruits for its forthcoming journeys.

For its maiden voyage, the MTP hauled 24 millennials, ages 18-32, from San Francisco to D.C., stopping at seven cities along the way. To snag a seat, participants had to pitch an ambitious project and raise at least $5,000 before the refurbished passenger cars rolled out of the station.

Once aboard, the riders were exposed to motivational lectures, challenging leadership exercises and, of course, some of the most unforgettable experiences of their short lives.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Matthew Stepp, senior policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said he first synced up with the MTP while presenting at one of its events earlier this year. He kept in touch and became intrigued once the train trip plan began picking up steam.

“I wanted to reconnect with the idealism of innovation,” he said of his reasons for seeking temporary reprieve from the terribly insular “D.C. bubble.”

But old habits die hard.

Like any wonk worth his government grant money, the original purpose of Stepp’s project — titled, “Energy Innovation Across America” — was to synthesize as much intel as possible and then spoon-feed his findings to lawmakers.

“Upon completing the trip, I will bring everything I chronicle and discover across the country together into a short case study on American Energy Innovation, which will analyze my findings to better inform public policy. This white paper would then be made available and distributed to Congress and the Administration,” Stepp outlined in his pitch.

But after brainstorming with those he firmly believes will help lead the next revolution in renewable energy — as part of his project, Stepp orchestrated roundtable discussions at nearly every stop (Omaha was a bust) where energy advocates were invited to talk shop — Stepp has shelved the primer for a more interactive approach.

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?