Skip to main content

Rep. Jim McDermott returns to the Jackson School to teach about Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy

June 22, 2017

He’s back from a three-month stint in Australia and ready to recommence dispensing the wisdom of a 14-term career in the U.S. Congress as a Washington representative. 

Jim McDermott returns to the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies this fall to give students an insider’s perspective on the goings-on in Washington. McDermott, who retired as Washington’s 7th Congressional District representative in 2017, launched his teaching career at the UW in Winter 2017 with a six-week symposium for graduate students tracking the opening weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I appreciated the chance to get an insider’s perspective on what was happening,” said Shannon Bush, a master’s student in the Southeast Asia Studies program. “For me, the most important aspect of the class was getting trusted feedback, from an experienced lawmaker familiar with long-standing political norms, about what has been an unprecedented period in the executive branch.”

Among topics like the president’s early term travel ban, students discussed issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act and, at times, took on the mantles of current congressional lawmakers to defend district positions. McDermott offered histories of current laws and the ways in which they were enacted as well as commentary on the political tensions likely brewing beneath the surface of the new presidency. 

“I want students to consider careers in government,” McDermott said following the last class of the lecture series. “This is a terrible time to be in your formative years and watching government. Part of my hope for teaching is to encourage people to come in.”

Following the “Trump’s First 100 Days” lecture series, McDermott spent three months teaching at Flinders University in Adelaide. He’s now back in Seattle in preparation for a fall class about foreign policy development in Washington, D.C., to help helps students understand how foreign policy is constructed between the executive branch and Congress. He will be co-teaching the course with long time congressional staffer Celes Eckerman, a veteran of both the U.S. House and Senate.

“Students are my legacy,” McDermott, age 80, said of his retirement from D.C.’s Capitol Hill to the UW’s Red Square. “I had almost 700 people go through my office as interns or fellows for a month, six months, a year. I’m trying to build on the past so students can go higher than me.”