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Preparing Boys for Life
Fords in Four: Daniel Coleman '04
The Haverford School

In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, Dan Coleman '04, Advisor to the Democratic Whip of the PA House Democratic Caucus, discusses his career path in public service and shares his advice to current students to "understand the gifts and benefits you are privileged to have around you." 

Do you have a good story from your time at Haverford? 

Having spent a significant portion of my adolescence as a student at Haverford, trying to recollect a story that embodied my time at the institution was a fun challenge. Every year, at the conclusion of their time at Haverford, seniors would participate in a tradition where the underclassmen become subject to aquatic attacks. At the time that included water balloons, water guns, and buckets of water. We saw this as a chance to play a joke on then-Dean of Students Mr. Ben Rein. We decided that an underclassman would run by Mr. Rein while I would conveniently miss the target, and leave the Dean of Students covered in water. The plan went off without a hitch. Mr. Rein found himself standing in the Quad behind Wilson Hall drenched in water. Like most young boys, we had only thought of the plan to that point and did not at all take into the possible consequences of our actions. Mr. Rein, after having a full bucket of water dumped on him, was not amused. “Coleman, in my office now!” he said.

After drying himself and I imagine giving himself some time to cool off, he entered to find me, a nervous soon-to-be-graduating senior waiting in anticipation of whatever punishment was certain to be handed down. The first thing he did was let out a huge laugh. He asked me what I was thinking. I informed him dumping water over his head was simply a way to honor him, much as coaches enjoy Gatorade baths to commemorate a championship. Amused by my explanation, but not sold, he laughed again. He sat and contemplated what remedy he had. After some deliberation, he informed me I’d be writing a 10-page paper dedicated to my experiences at Haverford. The paper gave me an opportunity to reflect on my time spent and turned out to be enjoyable. Once I showed it to him, we went over it together and laughed at some of the experiences shared. He shook my hand and wished me good luck going forward.

Knowing what I’m doing makes a difference in the lives of my neighbors and friends in a positive way is rewarding. I believe that we as human beings should always be striving for progress. Our laws are not meant to be stagnant but constantly evolving, factoring in the information we discover as we become more informed about the world around us.

Tell me more about your career path after Haverford. What led you to the position you have now with the PA House Democratic Caucus?

I worked in the office of several Pennsylvania senators during college, which provided me with the opportunity to see the legislative procedure firsthand in Harrisburg. To see how correspondence from constituents can eventually lead to a change in legislation and policy was exhilarating. In addition, learning how actions in Harrisburg directly affect the general populace was an invaluable learning experience. While in law school I learned the more technical side of legislation and policy by taking several classes that had these ideas as their focus. I also had the opportunity to work as a legislative and policy research fellow in Philadelphia’s City Hall. This position put me in direct contact with members of City Council and their staffs. It allowed me to become more familiar with the intricacies unique to the Philadelphia political world. It also gave me valuable experience writing policy briefs and doing the research that comes along with such work.

After law school, I worked in the District Office of Representative Donna Bullock as her legal advisor. This was an experience that really cemented my decision regarding being involved in the political world. At the district office-level, you are more of a social worker. You have an actual impact on issues that affect the daily lives of regular people. The work was extremely rewarding and humbling. After my stint in the District Office, I served in the House Democratic Chief Counsel’s office. There I was responsible for general legal advice to the leadership and other members of the Caucus regarding, among other things, contracts, legislation, ethics and personnel issues. Currently, I am the advisor to the Whip Rep. Jordan Harris where I handle policy for the Whip as well as advising the Democratic Caucus on pending legislation.

Knowing what I’m doing makes a difference in the lives of my neighbors and friends in a positive way is rewarding. I believe that we as human beings should always be striving for progress. Our laws are not meant to be stagnant but constantly evolving, factoring in the information we discover as we become more informed about the world around us.

I think while you’re enrolled in Haverford, be present. Understand the gifts and benefits you are privileged to have around you as a result of your enrollment in the institution. The best tool that we have to learn from is our peers and you are in a hub of brilliant creative intellect. Utilize that to the best of your advantage.

What lessons from Haverford do you carry with you?

The core virtues of Haverford (Humility, Selflessness, Justice, Honor, Honesty, Integrity, Compassion, Respect, and Character) are things that I carry with me, both in my professional and personal life. These principles were instilled in my foundation while at Haverford. These are the things that are important in life and values that we should all aspire to live by.

How do you think students can or should make the most of their Haverford education? 

I think while you’re enrolled in Haverford, be present. Understand the gifts and benefits you are privileged to have around you as a result of your enrollment in the institution. The best tool that we have to learn from is our peers and you are in a hub of brilliant creative intellect. Utilize that to the best of your advantage.

To students interested in a career in public service, my advice is to get involved, and do it now while you have the time and may be fortunate enough not to deal with financial constraints. Go out and volunteer to help your local nonprofit. Go out and volunteer for a campaign or to work in the district office of your local representative. The world is built on connections and now is the time for you to make them.

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