Features: The Young & The Guest List

More from 2014’s geniuses, visionaries, crusaders and innovators shaping Washington.

 

From left: Emily Tisch Sussman, Dan Costa and Hilary Wething (Photo by Tony Powell)

From left: , and (Photo by Tony Powell)

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN
Campaign Director, Center for American Progress

Should Think Tanks have to disclose their donors as Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed?
Think tanks play an important role in the policy process, so it’s important that the views of contributors do not influence the policy recommendations. Disclosing donors is one way to combat that. I also believe think tanks need to have strong internal policies that insulate the policy analysts from undue influence.

Motto/quote you live by?
“Just trying to change the world one sequin at a time” — Lady Gaga

All-time favorite book?
“The Book of Jezebel” edited by Anna Holmes, is a wonderfully snarky encyclopedia of feminist terms that cracks me up to no end.

Favorite charity/cause?
I had the opportunity to work for the best kind of nonprofit at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network because we had direct legal services representing service members being kicked out under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We also had a complimentary policy branch where we lobbied for legislative change for our clients and others like them. So many organizations do one or the other, but exceptional ones facilitate structural change on behalf of actual people. Since then I try to stay active on issues that are the next forefront of activism like trans rights and work-place equity for men and women. Women’s ability to thrive in the workplace is going to stall until we advocate for men to have the same parental flexibility and responsibilities.

What do you see as one of the most pressing world problems today?
The inability to empathize. When we can’t see ourselves in other people’s position, they become the other and we lose the ability to see the humanity in them.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
My boyfriend and I love Meridian Pint for a casual night out, brunch or football game, even though they took away the fried pickles — devastating. Busboys and Poets is great for every mood. Nellie’s is my go-to bar, but on a warm day, you can’t beat the dog-friendly porch of Larry’s Lounge.

Favorite apps?
Twitter
is a favorite for news and gossip. I happen to think I am a pretty great tweeter. I bet you want to follow me now: @EmTSuss. Happy Cow is the perfect app for any vegan looking for a spot to eat. I was a vegan before it was cool. And still I hate yoga. Hopstop maps out public transit options between two locations in just about every city.

Websites you visit most?
ESPN NFL Gamecast
helps me stay up on all the football action when I am on the road. I spend a lot of Sundays back and forth to my hometown in New York City, so I need to find a way to follow the games, especially the Giants. I can’t give up the New York Times, even with the firewall. I need to feed my reality TV addiction, so I regularly visit a variety of Real Housewives gossip sites.

What are your hobbies?
Playing with my pups, Luna and Ollie. I adopted Luna in collage, and Ollie is our new rescue. We named him Oliver Twist, because he is our little orphan.

What natural talent do you wish you possessed?
Whenever I read obituaries of super high-functioning people, it seems like they never slept. I require huge amounts of sleep. Therefore, I know there is a ceiling on how much I can possibly accomplish.

What fault do you have the least toleration for in yourself and others?
I have no tolerance for when people are half-ass committed. I am all in, all the time, and I expect others to be as well.

DANIEL COSTA
Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute

What are the most exciting issues you are working on? Why should young people care?
I work on immigration, specifically how it intersects with the labor market. I research and analyze issues having to do with foreign worker programs and how the immigration system functions and is managed, as well as the labor and employment rights of immigrant workers. This is important because there are millions of undocumented workers who are exploited and abused across the country and don’t have a voice and can’t stand up for their rights. I help expose how this happens and propose solutions and policies that would help fix it. Young people should care because the country and the labor force will be an even more diverse place when they’re older, and immigration is a big part of that.

Should Think Tanks have to disclose their donors?
Sen. Warren actually called on banks and financial institutions to disclose their contributions to think tanks. She did not exactly call on think tanks to disclose all of their donors.

And even in the case of banks, she called on them to make the disclosures voluntarily. I definitely support Sen. Warren’s call for greater transparency by banks and financial institutions. It’s interesting to note that labor unions are required by law to report all of their contributions and expenditures to the U.S. Department of Labor, where they are available online. I’d like to see the same obligation imposed on major corporations and law firms. And personally, I think that all think tanks should indeed disclose who their donors are (individual, corporate and foundations). Whether it’s a political campaign or a think tank, money doesn’t guarantee results, favors or silence, but it’s important to know of any possible biases that a person or institution that publishes research intended to influence public opinion and policymakers might have.

All-time favorite book?
It’s a tie between “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison and “The Postmodern Condition” by Jean-François Lyotard

What is the most pressing world problem today?
How to prevent and mediate/resolve domestic and international armed conflicts. Also, humans refusing to stop recklessly destroying the environment.

Favorite apps?
Taxi Magic
because I’ve left my life of driving behind and Google Maps because I never know where I am, even in a tiny city like D.C. Soundcloud because there’s tons of new and interesting music uploaded by artists around the world.

Motto/quote you live by?
“The world is a very puzzling place. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind.” — Noam Chomsky

Favorite charity/cause?
The ACLU because they work on a range of issues that I care about, including immigrant rights, national security law, and electronic privacy. I’m amazed at how much impactful litigation they are always directly involved in.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
The rooftop at the Eighteenth Street Lounge during warmer months is the best escape from long work days. The U Street Music Hall at night (and any day of the week). I can’t go too long without hearing live techno. I also eat at Bistro du Coin more often than I care to admit. One of my favorite restaurants is a place I’ve never even been to; Super Tacos delivers pounds of Mexican food to my apartment every month.

Websites you visit most?
Twitter, AILA Link (for research), Glenn Greenwald’s blog [when it was still there].

What are your hobbies?
Trying to learn French; going to minimal techno concerts and stand-up comedy shows; playing basketball and swimming

What natural talent do you wish you possessed?
Other than being able to dunk a basketball, I wish I was a speed reader.

What fault do you have the least toleration for in yourself and in others?
I find arrogance to be pretty annoying.

HILARY WETHING
Senior Research Assistant, Economic Policy Institute

What are the most exciting issues you are currently working on?
Much of my work currently centers on the question of how to make the economy work for the majority of working Americans, the bottom 99 percent if you will.

Within this space, I focus specifically on young worker labor markets and student debt. The Great Recession was particularly hard on young workers, who, in the absence of stable employment, have a harder time getting on the bottom rungs of their career ladder than young adults who graduated in a good economy. The inability to get onto the bottom rungs of a career ladder can have scarring effects on these workers through lower expected earnings and experience. On top of this, many are saddled with student debt that may force young workers to take on a job that they’re overqualified for, simply to make some income and begin their repayments. This can’t be the economy we want to grow old together in.

I’m also very passionate about the labor movement and have been working on youth awareness of issues surrounding collective bargaining. Over the summer in conjunction with the AFL, I hosted a series of brown bags to inform young people about the history of the labor movement and the current issues the labor movement faces.

Favorite charity/cause?
I’m very passionate about bringing power back into workers’ rights, so D.C. Jobs with Justice is my favorite right now. They are fighting for workers’ rights and an economy that benefits everyone through engagement with labor, student and faith communities.

What is the most pressing world problem today?
Inequality. The gap between the rich and poor is greater now than it’s ever been before, and it’s holding working families, and our economy, back.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
I live in Columbia Heights and prefer to stay local on the weekends. For drinks I usually go to the Red Derby and Kangaroo Boxing Club. I also have a C.S.A. (community supported agriculture) with Smucker Farms that I pick up once a week. The best food is farm-fresh and on Friday nights they usually have delicious tastings.

Motto/quote you live by?
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your all-time favorite book?
I love poetry. One of them would have to be a recent book by Christian Wiman, “My Bright Abyss.” I also love the books Madeleine L’Engle wrote for adults, including “A Small Rain” and “A Circle of Quiet.”

Favorite apps?
I walk everywhere. My favorite apps are those that help me get around on foot. Evernote for when I have ideas mid-walk, Spotify for listening on the go, and Google Maps for when I get lost.

Websites you visit most?
Lots of economics and policy blogs. My go-tos are Paul Krugman’s “The Conscious of a Liberal,” and the New York Times “Economix.” When I get that 3 p.m. lull, you’re more likely to find me perusing the fashion blog “ManRepeller.”

What are your hobbies?
Outside of work, you can usually find me at a ballet class at the Washington Ballet School, in a yoga studio or hiking with friends.

What natural talent do you wish you possessed?
I wish I could learn languages more quickly and easily. I love to travel and experience other cultures.

What fault do you have least toleration for in yourself and others?
I can’t stand when people are close-minded or intolerant. Not only does it not allow for discourse to move forward, it is disrespectful and hurtful.

See additional interviews and features in the February 2014 issue of Washington Life Magazine.

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