February 19, 2010

Making a Difference in the Halls of Power

In February people throughout North America celebrate the achievements of African-Americans. In observance of Black History Month, the author profiles three lay members who are making a difference on Capitol Hill, the White House, and a major federal service agency. They represent dozens of Adventist lay members who serve at all levels of society.—Editors.
Darron Paul Monteiro
2010 1505 22 capAt an early age, Darron Paul Monteiro knew he wanted to work in government. The movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington helped shape his dreams of public service. “Even though the movie was fictionalized, I was amazed at the effect that a single person in government could have,” he said. Monteiro’s educational journey led him to earn a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from Howard University School of Law. “My involvement in student government through college only reinforced my belief that public service was uniquely suited to advancing the common good.”
2010 1505 22It’s been one year since Monteiro began working as associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Prior to this, he served as an aide to Dale Bosley, marshal of the Supreme Court of the United States. In his current position Monteiro is responsible for outreach to communities of faith, which allows him to meet with clergy, lay leaders, and faith-based groups to discuss the Obama administration’s initiatives. He also listens to their suggestions and insights, and determines how to better engage and cooperate on issues of mutual concern.
During his short time there, Monteiro has had the opportunity, through the work of his office, to help strengthen relations with the American Muslim community as well as other faith traditions, ensuring that the office’s outreach reflects the diversity of religious traditions in the United States. His office has also worked with other organizations to highlight and protect the rights of religious minorities around the world.
Monteiro counts his opportunity to work in government “an amazing blessing and privilege.” He believes in the promise stated in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first” God’s kingdom. “It’s an ongoing challenge to remember that God will provide all of His best as I make the deliberate decision to make Him first in my life. I owe this [career] opportunity to God and have to honor Him in the time I’ve been given,” he said.
His faith in God is something Monteiro holds on to while working in public office. It’s faith that reminds him to work diligently, remain humble, and treat each person he works with and encounters as he would like to be treated. “It seems natural that a religion that teaches us to be concerned with the vulnerable and marginalized among us would lead more people of faith to enter public life and take an active part in addressing pressing human needs.”
A member of the Bladensburg Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bladensburg, Maryland, Monteiro sees the importance of Christians being involved in public policy issues. “Religious values are often what drive our beliefs and the way we see the world. The debates over health insurance reform to strengthening our public school systems remind us that so many of the political and policy issues that we face are also rightly seen as values issues. It’s important that we not be ashamed of our values as Christians, but also that we enter the political arena with a healthy sense of humility and a willingness to engage with others who, while they may not share our faith, do share our values,” he says.
Debra C. Anderson
2010 1505 22 capAfter working for 20 years as a radio and television broadcaster, Debra C. Anderson knew that there was something else she should be doing. “While I enjoyed a successful career, there came a point when I wanted to do more,” said Anderson, who studied speech communications at the University of Pittsburgh. Today Anderson serves on Capitol Hill as deputy chief of staff and communication director for Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2010 1505 22Her duties include being responsible for the day-to-day operations of the congressional office, supervising six people to ensure that legislative initiatives are met, and handling all aspects of internal and external communications, including all media interviews, Web site and new media development, and e-newsletters. Since being employed with Congressman Fattah, she has assisted in writing H.R. 2451 (The Student Bill of Rights), designed to improve the educational opportunities for children in grades K-12, and the Homeowners’ Emergency Assistance Act, designed to assist citizens who face imminent foreclosure on their homes.
This past December, provisions of the bill were approved by the House of Representatives in H.R. 4173 (The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act). According to Anderson, once the bill has been signed by the president, millions in danger of losing their homes will have access to the funds necessary to stave off foreclosure. “Working for the congressman provides the opportunity to work in a field where my everyday activities would have a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands—and in some cases millions of people,” she said.
Why does Anderson believe it is important for Christians to be working in politics? “We have a duty to ourselves and our communities to ensure that our freedoms and liberties are protected. Additionally, the Christian perspective and practice is a large and legitimate part of American culture. The values and influence of Christianity should be reflected in the environment where our culture is codified.” She enjoys her career in government because she has witnessed several historic events and interacted with major newsmakers.
Anderson says Jeremiah 29:11 has been the anchor in her life. “God has provided me the ability to exercise my craft in ways that only He could orchestrate. For His goodness and His mercy in providing not just a job, but good jobs and a phenomenal career path, I am eternally grateful,” she said.
Anderson is a member of the Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland, where she is active in its women’s ministries initiatives, supporting women who are bereaved, mentoring girls and young women as a role model for spiritual maturity and appropriate femininity. She also serves as a board member of the National Pine Forge Academy Alumni Association. She and her husband, Commander Select Paul S. Anderson, are the proud parents of two adult children, Jared and D’Andria.
Mark Brown
2010 1505 22 capOn the wall of Mark Brown’s office is a plaque displaying the words of Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee; and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (KJV).
2010 1505 22Brown is a senior information security officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most of what he does is not understandable to the average person. But God, and his educational background (associate degrees in computer science and business, bachelors of science in information systems management, certified information security manager, certified enterprise architect, and certified information privacy professional/government) help him through it all.
In his current position Brown coordinated the department’s acquisition and use of appropriations for information security and privacy initiatives. The funds were primarily derived from the Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He also coordinated the correction of information security and privacy awareness training modules, making them accessible to employees with disabilities. Brown oversaw the development of an assessment process that determines the risk of lost or mishandled data. “I humbly acknowledge that I am often called on to do things and establish positions that seem to be above my human capabilities and comfort level. But I find so much solace in calling upon God, and He shows me that I can do all things through Him.”
Celebrating 34 years of working for the U.S. federal government, Brown has served in many capacities. His first job was in a biochemistry laboratory at the National Institutes of Health. Although he was hired to wash and autoclave beakers and test tubes, he was allowed to observe and minimally assist in experiments geared toward determining the redeeming factors of the blood of horseshoe crabs. He was captivated by the dedication and intelligence of the doctors in that lab. “I was forever hooked on being a part of the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves,” he said.
Brown’s department sometimes deals with crisis management as a daily occurrence. His faith has become evident to those with whom he works, as well as those who have attended his presentations characterized by his calm demeanor. “I have been approached several times about my faith as [people] have noticed a certain spiritual element to my presentations. As one attendee put it: ‘I noticed a certain presence as you were speaking—even though it was a presentation on technical issues.’ I have found that God’s basic principles are truly universal and applicable in all areas of life,” he said.
While he doesn’t consider his career one that is directly related to politics, Brown believes “it is important to have a Christian influence in the political affairs of our country [so as] to provide God with a human conduit through which legislators can hear the voice and views of the Almighty through a human medium.”
Brown and his wife, Karen, attend the New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he serves as first elder. They have two adult children: Devin and Laura. In his spare time Brown participates in mentoring activities in area public schools and his local church, as well as career days on his job and at Pine Forge Academy. He also assists with distributing food to disadvantaged families. 
George Johnson, Jr., is associate communication director for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, MD, U.S.A. This article was published February 18, 2010.