Hampstead student starts public service career early

August 17, 1994|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Only 20 years old, William P. "Skip" Gibson of Hampstead has already had more political experience and worldly adventures than most people have in a much longer life.

Mr. Gibson is a senior at Washington College in Chestertown majoring in international studies and planning a career in public service. Toward that end, he has completed two internships in very different parts of the world in the past seven months.

In London last winter, he worked for almost three months for a lobbying group, Charter 88. On the Caribbean island of Barbados, he worked this summer at the U.S. Embassy.

"In Barbados, I saw a government fall, I got a front row seat to the Haiti situation and got a firsthand feel for what a political officer does," he said.

The embassy internship was one he had sought for the political experience. In Barbados, "I hit the jackpot."

About the time he arrived May 30, the people had given the prime minister's government a vote of no confidence, so the country is in the midst of a campaign for a Sept. 6 election, which he is disappointed he will miss.

"I reported [to the embassy] on the debate over that," he said. "I got a seat on the floor of their Parliament for that."

When Haiti's political situation worsened, Mr. Gibson acted as liaison between delegations from Washington and other countries seeking a haven for Haitian refugees.

Working as a "floater" out of the economic and political office at the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, he assisted the minister of transport and public works, Alleyne Carbon, in securing appointments and completing projects.

Mr. Gibson said he learned from Ray Brown, the labor attache, "about how everything is personal to these people."

"If you call somebody for something," he said, "you have to impress them and let them know you're there for them and you try to help them in whatever way you can."

For his 10-week internship, he received the Order of Bimshire award for distinguished service from Ambassador Jeanette Hyde. While in Barbados, he also made connections that he can use after he graduates, he said.

Before the Barbados assignment, Mr. Gibson had spent almost three months in London for a look at England's parliamentary style of government. Hoping to work for a member of Parliament, he was disappointed to find those internships all taken. Instead, he worked for Charter 88.

"It was an interesting group that believes the government in England as it is set up now isn't working for the people and they want a constitutional-type government," Mr. Gibson said.

Charter 88 isn't a major political movement -- more Britons have not heard of the group than have -- but it is gaining momentum, Mr. Gibson said.

While working for the group, he wrote a paper reviewing the local government structure and how to improve it. He also got the chance to talk to many members of Parliament while requesting support for measures that Charter 88 was trying to get passed.

"I called Dennis Skinner, a parliamentarian from Scotland with the Labor Party who is known as the 'Beast of Bolsover,' to get a motion signed," Mr. Gibson recalled. "He recognized my American accent and he gave me an earful for about 10 minutes. I mean, he went off on me about our government."

Confused at first, the American student decided "this was just the way he was and I was ultrapolite. But I didn't call him any more."

Mr. Gibson was also taking two classes -- Modern Britain and Parliament and Public Policy -- at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

He also met the man he thinks will be the next prime minister of England, Labor Party Leader Tony Blair.

"He lectured to our class one time and I spoke to him quite a number of times," Mr. Gibson said.

But even politicians have to relax. While in England, he visited Oxford, and Liverpool, which he said is a lot like Baltimore; Liverpool officials have studied the revitalization of Baltimore for their city's own economic comeback.

He also saw Dublin and Cork, Ireland, visited and kissed the famous Blarney Stone. In Scotland, he started some family research and visited Loch Ness.

Before returning home from London, he visited Paris; Berlin; Prague, Czechoslovakia; Vienna, Austria; and Venice, Italy.

In Barbados, he received his scuba diving certification and had many opportunities to go diving, once at night and once to a Greek merchant ship that had been sunk as an attraction for divers.

Next week, it's back to school. The 1991 North Carroll High graduate expects to have his bachelor's degree by May and hopes to go to law school.

Mr. Gibson said he'd like to run for an office some day "if I could fulfill a function, if there would be a need -- I think I can do a lot of good, but I'm not bent on being a senator or anything. I just want to help the community."

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