For several years after graduating from college I worked in Washington, D.C. I had a fabulous experience with the high school students who came to Washington to learn how the Federal Government worked. A program called “Close Up.” They were organized by high schools from Houston or from Detroit, from San Francisco, and I was there for the first Iowa program, which was real interesting for me. That’s when I started finally to integrate some of my Williams-at-Home experiences with this job where every week there’d be a new group of 200 students from some different part of the country. And I found that I had a lot of skills in terms of how to relate to these people. I was the program administrator. I had 10 staff people working for me. A lot of my instructors had difficulty. You know, “I hate people from Detroit.” “I love the kids from Atlanta.” Or, “I love the kids from Houston, but the kids from Detroit are just real pain in the asses.” Well, you have to kind of let go of some of your preconceptions and learn, you know, step into their shoes. Yeah, it was tailor-made for my interests at that time.

Then I moved to Vermont in 1978 and collected unemployment checks for half a year and then worked with a community action program at minimum wage, and my dad was shaking his head, you know, all this college education and he’s not even making a living. And then I got married in ’82 and decided in ’85 to go to law school. I went part-time at night, had two kids while I was in law school, and when I graduated from law school I think my father finally said — I was 39 — he said, “You’ve done good.” He was beaming.

I have a law degree, I do consulting work in energy and environmental fields and I’m very much into exercising power. I spend most of my time building coalitions to get things done, to do things and to achieve things. And I’ve become pretty good at it and, you know, I’m glad I gave up my perhaps naïve view of power back then. I’m much more interested now in how power gets exercised.

Paul Peterson '73, college anarchist-turned-attorney, lives in Putney, Vt.