There is such thing as a free lunch…

My grandpa always used to tell me that there is no such thing is a free lunch.  Throughout my life, I’ve found his words to ring true–that is until I started working downtown and realized the power of a State Department badge.

One of my good friends also works downtown for State, but he is in the stay-in-school program they have which is a really good long-term, paid internship program.  He keeps in the downtown DC loop.  The past couple months he has been inviting me to go with him to all of these free lunches downtown.  I’ve been going along adn taking advantage of what the many institutions, lobbying groups, centers, and think-tanks have to offer.

About a month ago I heard that the Center for American Progress was going to be hosting some sort of lunch event on the UN.  I walked the 10 minutes over to their penthouse headquarters on the other side of the White House with an empty stomach.  People were gathering in the conference room to hear the panel speak, but I couldn’t break myself away from the plethora of pitas, sandwiches, subs, salads, and gourmet chips and cookies.  The food was so delicious.  I got a chicken, pesto, and mozarella sandwich on a baguette along with a southwestern spicy chicken wrap.  They even served orangina.  I stayed and ate my feast while listening to 3 panelists dsicuss the future interaction of the UN and the U.S. and the implications on American foreign policy in the next 15 years. It was a superb break from work.

The Center for American Progress’ lunch was nothing compared to the Chamber of Commerce Jobs Summit I attended last week.  My friend told me about it about an hour before my lunch break and said he thought I could still register on the spot even though it may be a bit more difficult.  I walked the couple blocks over and when the registration table worker dubiously asked for a form of ID, I handed her my State Department badge and her whole demeanor changed.  Suddenly I was “Mr. Gordon” and my event ID would be “ready immediately.”  The notion of the State Department seems to blow people away without them even knowing what you do.  I could have been a janitor and gotten in, I bet.

I sat down next to a business professor from Georgetown and struck up a nice conversation while we awaited our 4 courses.  Lunch included an assortment of bread and olive oil, a salad, chicken cordon bleu, sauteed asparagus, cous cous, mashed potatoes with au jus, and even a dark chocolate raspberry torte for dessert.  My mouth was in heaven.  The speaker talked about the imperative of deficit reduction and presented coherent and very convincing arguments for debt reduction without any kind of political bias.  In Washington it’s refreshing to find an analysis of a problem and solution that is so fiercely non-partisan, especially when accompanied with a free gourmet meal.