Federal Attorney Addresses Students

On Friday, May 21st, United States Attorney James Santelle met with American Public Policy: Special Emphasis and AP United States History students in the cafeteria to talk about his job and his previous career as a US Department of Justice Attorney in Iraq. Using maps, diagrams and photos, Santelle gave the assembled juniors and seniors an inside look at the country that the United States has occupied since 2003.
“The thing is, you cannot just fly into Baghdad,” said Santelle. “The only way to get there safely is by military transport. An American walking through Baghdad International Airport and on the streets of the city wouldn’t last ten minutes without being kidnapped or shot at.”
Santelle described Baghdad as one of the most violent cities in the world, with insurrection and political unrest threatening to unravel the very core of the Iraqi government.
“We all slept in trailers,” said Santelle, explaining living conditions for United States civilians working in Baghdad. “They were made of plastic and the militants knew that those trailers held Americans. They would launch rockets and open fire when they wanted to. One time…I found bullet holes in the side of my trailer that had not been there when I arrived.”
After leaving Iraq, Santelle returned to the United States and was appointed by President Obama as the United States Attorney of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He spoke about the importance of government service and what he wanted students to take away from what he had to tell them.
“I wanted to tell the story about Iraq and the importance and things to accomplish in the public sector,” said Santelle.
As many of the students in the audience have spent the past year learning about United States history and politics, Santelle had a few words of wisdom for those seeking to pursue careers in politics and diplomacy.
“There are many great opportunities [for students]. Get educated, apply for internships, and enroll in summer programs. These things are not only a great learning experience, but a good way of getting your foot in the door.”
These are simple steps any student interested in these fields of study can take. As juniors and seniors, audience members have majors on their minds and are actively seeking ways to further themselves in the fields that interest them. However, education is important to all students in America, no matter what grade they are in.
“It exists,” said Santelle in response to how the American education system differed from the Iraqi system. “In America there are schools, books, and teachers. In Iraq, the system is much more random and many students do not have the opportunity to pursue the education that will help them in life. What makes the violence in Iraq different from violence in other parts of the world, such as Africa and Mexico is that the violence is ever-present. Any day, anything can happen.”