D.C. veteran: College, military opens doors

After spending years in D.C. including time in Congress, Ron Sarasin finally has an office with a view of the Capitol dome.

 A man who has been giving tours of the building he has been connected with for over 30 years, Sarasin enjoys all the history D.C. has to offer.

Before he sat down to interview, Sarasin gave a tour of the United States Capitol Historical Society  offices, pointing out interesting facts. He was particularly proud of the pieces of the Capitol the Society had displayed in cases.

A Connecticut native, Sarasin served in the Connecticut State Legislature from 1969 to l973 and was also assistant minority leader from 1971 to 1973.  He served as a member of Congress from l973 to l979. He is now president and CEO of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, a position he’s held for 10 years.

 “It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble,” he said, laughing.

Sarasin is only one of three past presidents of the USCHS. Previous presidents include former Reps. Fred Schwengel (R-Iowa) and Bud Brown (R-Ohio).
Sarasin didn’t always have political aspirations, though. “My father and mother never graduated from high school. It was just a way of life,” he said.

Sarasin ended up joining the Navy at 17 and then made the decision to attend college and later law school.

“Until I joined the service I had no desire to go to college,” Sarasin said. “I’d definitely recommend military service — I received a tremendous education, and it was a great opportunity.”

Sarasin said he left the military at age 21 with a completely different outlook on life. His brother ended up attending college and joining the service, and his sister attended college as well. “We really achieved the American Dream, doing better than out parents did,” Sarasin said. “Since then, life has been good.”

After serving as a Republican in Congress, Sarasin worked in nonprofits such as the National Restaurant Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Sarasin said the USCHS mission is to educate the public about the history of the Capitol. He enjoys giving tours when needed and educating those unfamiliar about the history of the U.S. government.

When recalling his time in Congress, Sarasin said government is more partisan now. “I think the change came in 1974 after Watergate,” he said. “It’s been a gradual and unfortunate change.”

The ’70s also marked a time when politicians left D.C. for their home districts on weekends. “Our families didn’t get to become friends; there wasn’t as much of a sense of community,” he said. “Also, in our home districts, most weekends are just treated like workdays.”

Sarasin’s best advice to those interested in following in his footsteps is to get involved with one’s community. “Be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Most people tune out and have no clue what’s going on.”

Years from now, Sarasin still sees himself as president and CEO of the USCHS. “I enjoy what we’re doing and I feel that we’ve accomplished a great deal here,” he said.

Sarasin lives in McLean, Va., with his wife and 11-year-old son Douglas. He also has a 47-year-old son from a previous marriage.

For more information on the USCH, visit uschs.org.