Ms. Priest Goes to Washington

Ms. Priest Goes to Washington

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ally Priest with Senator Shaheen

Politcal Science major Ally Priest (right) got a taste of life in the nation's fast-paced capital as an intern with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (left).

Student Interns with Senator. Gets "Royal" Treatment.

Political science major and Derry, N.H., native Alexandra (Ally) Priest is in Washington, D.C., this semester rubbing elbows with senators, congressional lawmakers, notable White House residents (Bo the dog brushed past her leg while she toured the White House), and even with actor George Clooney, who made an appearance on the Hill.

Priest is working at New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office through an opportunity provided by The Washington Center, a nonprofit organization that works with U.S. and international colleges and universities to match selected students with credit-based internships in the nation’s capital.

While working on research projects, attending briefings, and shadowing Senator Shaheen, Priest is also preparing for a royal experience. She’s been chosen by the New Hampshire State Society in Washington as the 2012 New Hampshire Cherry Blossom Princess. From April 7 through 14, she’ll be joining princesses from across the country and internationally to attend teas and receptions, dance at a grand ball, participate in a coronation, and parade the streets of Washington during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Don’t be fooled by the princess title, though. The Cherry Blossom Princess Program has a weightier goal than happily ever after. Run by the National Conference of State Societies, this educational and cultural exchange program has been bringing together exceptional young women from the states, territories, and other countries since 1948 to network and learn. The princesses meet government, cultural, military, and business leaders as well as high-profile women who work in Washington. In the past, they have included the first lady, speaker of the house, senators, chief justices, and naval commanders. Princesses also do volunteer work. The program seeks to provide a "Washington classroom" for future women leaders.

“I hope to meet a lot of new people from all over the country, but also from all over the world,” says Priest. “I am very excited by the volunteer projects planned because it’s a chance to give back to the city I’ve been living in for the past couple of months. But I am most excited for the gala night when I find out if I will represent the United States in Japan.”

The gala night is the grand ball and coronation of the 2012 U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen. The Japan Ambassador to the U.S. spins a wheel of fortune to randomly select the queen who is coronated wearing the Mikimoto Crown, a priceless Japanese work of art. Though she can’t keep the crown, the queen is given a smaller replica and a string of Mikimoto pearls. The following morning, the queen appears in the National Cherry Blossom Parade. Perhaps the bigger prize is that the queen is invited to Japan later in the spring as an official U.S. representative.

This year is a special one for the Cherry Blossom Princesses because the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. The annual celebration honors that event and the lasting friendship between the two countries. More than a million people are expected to visit the capital to attend the festival.

This year is also a first for national syndication of the parade. ABC’s Katie Couric, Alison Starling, and Leon Harris will co-host the coverage on April 14 with Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek as special correspondent.

Priest is keeping her fingers crossed that the wheel of fortune will spin her way and maybe, just maybe, Katie Couric will have reason to speak her name.

Originally published by: 

College Letter, Newsletter of the College of Liberal Arts

Written by Susan Dumais. Photos courtesy of Alexandra Priest.