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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

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Alumna shares tips on how to survive in D.C.

Torie Clark, an alumna of the School of Media and Public Affairs and former assistant secretary of defense, shared life advice about living in D.C. from her new book. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer
Torie Clark, a School of Media and Public Affairs alumna and former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, shared advice about living in D.C. from her new book. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Catherine Moran.

An alumna and former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs shared advice from her new book, “A Survivor’s Guide to Washington: How to Succeed without Losing Your Soul,” at GW on Tuesday.

Dozens came to the Marvin Center to hear from Torie Clark, who graduated from the School of Media and Public Affairs in 1982 and served under Donald Rumsfeld, and a panel of other former insiders.

The discussion, hosted by SMPA and the Graduate School of Political Management, included insights into professional and personal social circles in D.C. Here are some of the takeaways from the event:

1. Keep your friends close

Jamie Baker, a recent GSPM graduate and legislative assistant, said combining professional and nonprofessional relationships is possible even if friends don’t share the same political beliefs.

He suggested avoiding situations where fights over politics could erupt, and to stick to more neutral topics.

“Some of my dear friends are Democrats and I’m a Republican. And people are like, ‘How can you stand in the same room as them and talk policy?’” he said. “We don’t. We talk football. We go to lunch.”

2. Stay authentic

Janelle Carter Brevard, a former senior advisor and speechwriter for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said she has not worked for anyone whose philosophies didn’t align with her own, and that honesty keeps her grounded.

“I think that what’s allowed me to be successful in Washington as a speechwriter, particularly, is the ability to be honest with the people I work for and work with. You need to be very honest,” Brevard said.

Lorraine Voles, the vice president of external relations at GW, said building honest relationships is important to avoiding arrogance.

She said the only way to succeed in the District was by maintaining connections with others.

“In your career, I’d say to make sure that you are honest to the core,” Voles said. “All you have in this town is your reputation.”

3. Humor goes a long way

The key to success? According to Clarke, being funny.

“If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re not going to last very long,” Clarke said.

P. J. Crowley, a former assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said he uses his Twitter to share his political humor.

When rescuers went to retrieve an incarcerated missionary who had crossed the border into North Korea in 2009, Crowley tweeted, “Americans should heed our #travel warning and avoid North Korea. We only have a handful of former Presidents.”

Chuck Todd selected the tweet as the D.C. tweet of the year.

“When I got to the State Department, my young staff came to me and said, ‘You have to tweet.’ And I got very very good at it,” Crowley said. “I beat out Snooki and Sarah Palin.”

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