Gabriel Scheinmann is executive director of the Washington-based Hamilton Society, which operates on 50 college campuses to help students get into the foreign policy field. As director, Scheinmann, 35, who has a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in international relations, oversees Hamilton’s alumni network and helps connect students to internships and jobs.
What is the Hamilton Society?
The Hamilton Society is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help identify and educate young men and women, focused mostly on college chapters, and launch them into foreign policy/national security careers in view with what I call Hamiltonian principles, which is essentially the belief in strong and principled American leadership in the world, support for a strong defense and support for the spread of liberal-democratic values.
We help students start or join chapters at their universities, which function like extracurricular groups, and as leaders of their chapters they get to invite to campus some speakers on our curated list. That foundation forms the basis of a network and through that, we help them get internships and ultimately jobs in Washington or elsewhere. We believe that by investing in people at a young age who care about these sorts of issues we can actually help them meet others who share their world view, get mentored by the right people and ultimately come to Washington and make a difference.
First of all, this was before the musical. He is known for many things, but a foreign policy outlook is not typically among them. One of Hamilton’s foundational insights is that the United States was actually fundamentally different than the other nations that existed at the time. Because there is no king, when the United States conducts itself abroad, it’s not about enriching the sovereign. This term, American exceptionalism, is something that emerges out of Hamilton. That ethos about how the United States is an exceptional nation is something we think was embodied in Hamilton and embodies ourselves and our network.
What’s your personal background?
I am a first-generation American. My mother was born in Tunisia, my father was born in France. As a consequence of that background, I always as a young boy was interested in current events. You want to understand what’s going on in the world because you feel like it’s relevant to you. In addition to being from an immigrant family that was welcomed and embraced by the United States, America literally saved my family — and the free world — from total destruction [in World War II].
What really attracted me to the Hamilton Society is that I really get the best of both worlds. I have one foot firmly planted in the academic world and one foot planted in the Washington policy world. I get to live vicariously through the students and at the same time I get to live vicariously through our alumni who are moving on up in the world. It’s really a leadership, management and fundraising role.
As a Jew, do you see Jewish values in what you do?
The work that we do is neither religious nor humanistic, but the values that make Judaism and the Jewish people thrive are values that are embodied in what we do. If you’re a believer in the spread of what we call American values, you’re a believer in the spread of freedom of and from religion. In my view, the world would be better off, and Jews would be better off, if a lot of other countries look more like the United States.