Steven Lee of Stamford has a new philosophy: “You can’t win unless you take the risk of losing.”

“I’ve been living by that lately,” said Steve, who, along with 103 other high school students from across the country, received those words of wisdom from U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., while visiting the nation’s capital.

The group also met with CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a number of congressmen and President Obama. “It was incredible,” Steve said of his weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., as a United States Senate Youth Program delegate.

Meeting with Obama was “a little like something I’ve never felt before. He was absolutely amazing,” said Steve, junior class president at Westhill High School. “I see him on TV all the time, but when he was standing in front of us, it was a different feeling.

“He said meeting with our group helps him forget about the nation’s problems,” recalled Steve, adding that the president said the most pressing problems he is facing are education and the economy.

He also was impressed with Thomas, who was “very honest and down to earth.” Steve stumped the justice a bit with a question about veering from Constitutional adherence. Ultimately, however, Thomas stayed true to his conservative mantra with his response. “I really did get a sense that he was extremely conservative,” said Steve.

The group met Panetta and other CIA personnel during a trip to CIA headquarters – and, possibly, encountered a little espionage. “We were not even sure if they gave us their real names,” said Steve. “We were told afterward that one was undercover. That was really cool.”

The students also toured museums and memorials, had meals in areas usually reserved for the nation’s political power brokers, and were mentored in small groups by members of the armed forces.

Having access to the men and women who make laws and govern the country gave Steve the feeling that some of his friends in the program could be in those positions someday.

“The students are some of the brightest, welcoming students I’ve ever met,” he said. “There’s a good chance some of them could be senators and congressmen in the future – maybe even president.”

When it was suggested the same could apply to him, Steve’s response was concise. “Yes,” he said.

It seems as if Steve could follow in the political footsteps of fellow Westhill graduates Michael Fedele and Dannel Malloy. What do you think? What advice do you have for him?