18 August 2011

His Holiness the Dalai Lama—Also, Candy.

Posted by njreck13 under: Summer 2011 .


It’s true that as a Congressional intern you will have to do some less-than engaging work. The intern supervisor in the Senator’s office told us at the beginning of the summer that there were going to be boring tasks and there were going to be exciting tasks—let’s talk about the exciting stuff.

I had a few welcome-to-the-Hill moments. First of all, when we didn’t have much work to do, interns were encouraged to wander about the Capitol. On one such excursion around the Mall, on the way out of the Russell Senate Office Building a nice gentleman opened the door for me. As I walk passed him muttering a thank you I noticed it was my home Senator, Bob Casey (D-PA). This would be the first of several times I ran into Sen. Casey, who never failed to be courteous and approachable as he walked through his place of business.

Over the course of the summer, interns had access to a lecture series of prominent speakers. Through this program, I was able to come in contact with a handful of high-profile political figures. No press were allowed, so audacious interns were able to ask otherwise inappropriate questions. Perhaps the least recognizable speaker was, to me, the most interesting: the Senate Chaplain Barry Black.  I’ll never forget his advice on how to advance in the working world. The first thing he would do when arriving at a new job is find out when the boss shows up, takes lunch, and leaves. He would then show up 20 minutes earlier, leave 30 seconds later, and take a shorter lunch than his boss. In doing so he was able to give the appearance of always working, and was promoted more quickly.

Other notable speakers included Colin Powell, Senator Richard Lugar, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Dr. Thomas Mann of Brookings. It was particularly interesting to hear General Powell and Justice Bader-Ginsberg speak freely about their lives in and out of office. Powell spoke about the fleeting nature of political success, pointing out how quickly he went from being one of the most coveted political voices in the world as Secretary of State to an under-the-radar retiree. Meanwhile, speaking from a podium in the Supreme Court chamber, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg talked about everything from her grandkids to her thoughts on judicial conduct: she will not discuss hypothetical case scenarios due to the collegial, deliberative nature of the Court.

Quick note: hearings with Al Franken presiding and with Dr. Phil testifying= hilarious.

I was able to see both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Secretary Clinton offered to take a picture with the Senator’s interns, and so we were allowed over to her offices at the State Department. We didn’t get much time with her, but she was nothing if not friendly, and very nice to take time out of her day. President Clinton, on the other hand, absolutely floored me. I didn’t get as close to him as I did Hillary, but I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the Campus Progress National Conference. He spoke about the calling to public service and how we as young people can foment positive change in America. Absolutely inspiring.

I’m definitely leaving out some cool stuff. For instance, the interns in our office got to sit down with the Dean of Admissions at Harvard Law School and get advice for our applications. For example, your chances of getting into top-tier law schools increase exponentially if you wait and get more experience for a few years after undergrad. Not exactly super-exclusive, but still neat, if not particularly flashy. Another example of the borderline awesome, staff members are occasionally granted access to the Speaker of the House’s balcony in the Capitol overlooking the Mall. A stunning view, and a surreal vantage point.

Hands down the coolest stuff I got to do was through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The protocol director, Meg Murphy, absolutely hooked up the Senator’s interns. We were given a tour of the SFRC room, sat where then-Senator Obama sat, and heard stories of closed-door meetings with foreign dignitaries. Ms. Murphy also gave us a tour of the Senate Cloakrooms. To use Ms. Murphy’s metaphor, the Cloakrooms are the dugouts to the baseball diamond of the Senate floor. It is where Senators prep just before going onto the floor, and where staff and pages attempt to wrangle in all the Senators due to vote. We then moved onto the floor and peaked inside the Senators’ desks. Each Senator carves his name in the desk, so we could see the Stephen Douglas, LBJ, and Ted Kennedy desks, among others. One desk on the Senate floor is filled 24 hours a day with candy of all shapes, colors, and sizes. The candy obsession on the Hill is very real.

Also through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with several of my coworkers I helped greet four Heads of State from West Africa. All from French speaking countries and all proud, high-ranking officials, it was certainly interesting ushering their staff members around the Capitol to Senate dining carryout and the bathroom.
Ok. I’m about to give away by far the most tremendously awesome thing that happened to me during my internship.

At one point during the summer, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was being received at the SFRC. And. AND some interns from the office were chosen to greet him. I was not one of them. Instead, I had a hearing to go to on domestic abuse. His Holiness was being received at 11:00, so at 11:30 I ducked out of the briefing hoping to catch a glimpse. On the way to the SFRC I passed the Senator—I was certain that all hope was lost. But then! Ms. Murphy saw me in the hallway, and led me to a small room. In this room I found myself shoulder to shoulder with a handful of Senators, the Sergeant at Arms, and the Prime Minister Elect of Tibet. At the front of the room, former Senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole were presenting an award from the Caring Institute to His Holiness himself, the Dalai Lama.

I was in shock. The Dalai Lama was right in front of me. Every time Senator Dole tried to stand up, His Holiness gave him a little boost to help him along. I think that “adorable” is a fair characterization. The Dalai Lama gave a brief speech and then walked toward the door. I thought to myself, “I need to shake his hand.” I moved toward the aisle, and extended my hand to him, saying, “it’s an honor to meet you, Your Holiness.” He took my hand. Looked me in the eye. Smiled a pursed, wry smile, and grabbed my goatee. He gave my facial hair a little tug, and then walked on towards the door without saying a word.

Needless to say, my coworkers gave me a bit of a hard time. Who cares?! The Dalai Lama pulled on my goatee!








4 Comments so far...

Maegan Says:

18 August 2011 at 4:46 pm.

It sounds like you’ve been around some pretty cool people this summer. I found the comment about the candy obession really funny, I guess we all have our weaknesses! Also, so jealous of your encounter with the Dali Lama!!

Maegan Says:

18 August 2011 at 4:52 pm.

^oops! *Dalai Lama

vanessaremmers Says:

19 August 2011 at 12:31 pm.

Of all the reactions I would expect out of a initial interaction with the Dalai Lama, pulling on your goatee would be the last. Or at least way down on my list. Perhaps wise men like him have no need for such trivial pleasantries. That is very awesome you get to add that to your list of DC experiences.

cedalessio Says:

23 August 2011 at 11:35 am.

Wow! You definitely got to see some really intersting people this summer. It’s great the everyone was so friendly and approachable.

Summer Interns

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