24August2011

Closing Remarks

Posted by mlcrews under: Summer 2011.

It seems like just yesterday the summer was starting and I was nervous for my first day as an intern, now its the eve of the first day of classes (senior year-eek!) and I can finally look back at all the knowledge I gained this summer. Although I learned a lot about the world of politics in a congressional district office, the lesson that stuck with me is one I also learned on the first day of kindergarten: Being nice to others in life can get you a long ways.

Working with the staff at Congressman Hurt’s office allowed me to see first hand how difficult and confusing dealing with the federal government can be  for ordinary citizens. The time and help provided by the district office staff, made situations that were often sticky, much better for those involved. I learned through listening to endless phone calls to the Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration, that being nice gets you an answer quicker, which in return means happier constituents.

I don’t want it to seem like I learned nothing about actual politics because in fact, I learned a great deal in only 3 months. I had to keep constantly informed on what was going on in the House at the time to be able to answer questions from phone calls. I also learned a lot about the relationships the Congressman has to form in the district to make sure he is best serving the district as well as to  make sure he is reelected next fall.

This internship did accomplish one major goal I hoped it would. I wanted to work in the real world so I could begin thinking about a job after college. The office staff gave me tons of advice on the best way to go about getting a job, the right people to connect with, and possible jobs that match my interests.

I know I’ve said it before but I want to reiterate that I am gracious to the donors of Irwin Taylor Scholarship for making this opportunity a reality for me. Now as we begin another semester it’s time to see what I can apply from my summer experience!

 

 

Comments Off on Closing Remarks 

24August2011

Leaving the Capital

Posted by anirae under: Summer 2011.

Since returning to Williamsburg, I keep being asked, “How was your summer?”  Without hesitation, I always reply, “It was incredible.” I truly enjoyed living and interning in Washington, D.C. and I have learned so much from the experience.

For one, the summer taught me that anything is possible, as long as you try, try, and try again.  I know it sounds cliche, but spending my summer as an intern in the capital was, at first, just a distant goal.  Only after sending applications, completing phone interviews, finding funding, and searching for an apartment did my dream of summer in D.C. come true.

I also learned from coworkers’ advice.  Almost every person I worked with had an opinion on when someone should attend law school. I appreciated when they would stop by my desk and tell me what they thought.  I listened and learned from each one of their stories. Each piece of advice did not give me a definite answer on when, and even if, I should attend law school.  However, their advice did cause me to think critically about my future and what I want to do in the coming years.

It goes without saying that I learned many academic things, too.  I learned a lot about religious liberties and the case law that protects them.  I also learned about legal procedure.  I read briefs and opinions.  I sat in on conference calls.  I attended meetings.  And, each little piece showed me how lawyers work to prepare for cases.

As I begin the Fall semester at William and Mary, I hope to use both the practical and personal experience I gained this summer.

Comments Off on Leaving the Capital 

24August2011

The Day Care and Congressman Barney Frank

Posted by njreck13 under: Summer 2011.

The Senate is notoriously glamorous—on the positive end, I got to rub shoulders with great people in historical places. The other side of the coin, the Senate has been accused of being disconnected from the people, overly deliberative, and elitist. In this way, my experience in the House and Senate was night and day. To the palace of the Senate-side, the House of Representatives is called “the daycare.” Yet, such a description need not be taken pejoratively. The House is designed to remain closer to the people, and based on my brief tenure on that side of Congress it does just that.

How I was able to secure an internship with Congressman Barney Frank is a testament to the importance of networking in the DC environment. My internship with the Democratic Senator was due to end on July 28. That same week, one of my coworkers had lunch with the Executive Administrator in Barney Frank’s office where he had interned the previous summer.  He came back from that meeting and told me that their office was in a bind. Congressman Frank’s summer interns were all leaving in the beginning of August, and fall interns would not come until September rolled around. In other words, they were hurting for some help. My friend said he’d throw my resume over to the office, and just like that, by the end of the day I had an offer.

Very quickly my time in Washington was extended by a month with the opportunity to experience both houses of Congress. My first day in Congressman Frank’s office, I got more face-time with my boss than I did the entire two months I worked on the Senate side.  The congressman called me into his office to introduce himself. We began to talk about the debt ceiling deal (why he voted “no”) and Congressman Frank’s meeting with Vice President Biden, when he remembered he needed to call into a radio show. I was quickly ushered out. Yet, to my surprise, ten minutes later I was called back into his office to finish the conversation! The Congressman consistently afforded the staff and me that level of respect throughout the summer. Despite the onset of the August recess, we still heard from Barney Frank daily, as he called into the office to stay on the pulse of work.

Barney Frank has a reputation for being one of the most intelligent and difficult to work for members of Congress. While I cannot speak to the second point, I can say without a doubt that Congressman Frank has an extraordinary mind—I only wish I had more time to pick his brain. What’s more, he is an absolute workhorse. As I mentioned earlier, during the recess he continues to work from offices up in New England. Barney Frank truly cares about the hearts and minds of the people in MA-4, and makes every effort to keep up with and understand their priorities moving forward in the Capitol.

Whereas in the Senator’s office I often had down time between relatively substantive projects, in Frank’s office, I was constantly busy, but with more menial tasks. It was the responsibility of the interns—of which I was one of two— to sort all incoming mail and answer the phones throughout the day. This does not sound a particularly demanding task. Yet, while the Senator’s office would throw away mass-produced form letters and petitions, Congressman Frank’s office responds to each and every piece of constituent mail. Thus, the task of sorting mail into the appropriate category of response became rather daunting and time-consuming. We even responded to hate mail (and there was a fair amount of it, since BF was both the first openly gay congressman and a visible member of the financial community) acknowledging the letter and points of disagreement.

Answering the phones was always interesting. You never know if the caller will be a famous reporter (I’m 90% sure I took a call from Dan Rather), a former congressman (former Presidential candidate John Anderson), or a furious constituent. For this reason, I enjoyed working the phones and dealing with whatever may bark back from the other end of the line.

In the Senator’s office, staff members were spread out, working in different rooms in the office building. In Frank’s office, staff members work in the same room, making communication between staff and interns far less of an ordeal. In turn, I had more extensive access to the staff members. I talked about careers on the Hill with the Chief of Staff and current affairs with the foreign policy LA, to name a few impromptu talks.  Yet, I ended up working most closely with the health care Legislative Assistant. I conducted research on the Affordable Care Act so that I could update constituent letter responses. More specifically, I revised the letter on Part D of the new health care plan—that is, the implications of the government health care program for prescription drugs as it pertains to effectiveness, cost, and the diminishment of the benefits “doughnut hole.” Additionally, I composed a refutation of various “myths” being circulated about the ACA in order to clarify for a constituent both false accusations of government overreaching and the very real benefits gained from the law.

So while I was only in the Congressman’s office for about three weeks, I was thrown into a busy day-to-day office with accessible staff members who were very willing to delegate out substantive issue-specific projects. I feel that by working on both sides of Congress, I was able to get a more full understanding of the inner-workings of America’s Legislative system. I made lots of connections that will help me move forward with my career in DC, and had the chance to talk with staffers who have stood in our collegiate-intern shoes and worked their way up.

Working in the House and Senate were completely different. Taking the internship with Barney Frank turned out to be a great decision, and served to round out my Washington experience.

All I can really say in closing: you better believe I’m going back to DC. What an incredible summer.

Comments Off on The Day Care and Congressman Barney Frank 

23August2011

My Summer Internship- Part 3

Posted by cedalessio under: Summer 2011.

For my final post, I thought I’d talk a little bit about meals in Washington.  My dorm room had a small kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, and stovetop.  However, my cooking repertoire is extremely limited.  I can make a couple basic meals, but nothing spectacular.  Given my limited cooking repertoire and since I was only going to be in Washington for about seven weeks, I decided against lugging a bunch of pots, pans, and other cooking supplies to Washington.  Instead, all I brought was a small frying pan and a spatula.  But despite my limited cooking talents, I also knew that if I went out to eat for every single meal, I would burn through a ton of money really quickly.   

 So, what exactly did I do for meals while I was in Washington?  Basically, I tried to keep things as simple as possible.  As soon as I got to Washington, I bought a ton of plastic bowls and silverware.  I also bought food for breakfast and lunch.  I made my own breakfast and lunch everyday, which definitely kept my food costs down.  For dinner, I occasionally made something in my room, but most of the time, I went out.  Foggy Bottom has lots of places to eat that were within easy walking distance of my dorm and I definitely took advantage.  I also discovered that Trader Joe’s has an excellent selection of frozen dinners.  Not only was there a large selection, but the meals were also cheap, and pretty good. 

 I really enjoyed my time in Washington.  I learned a lot from my internship and had a fantastic time both at work and in my spare time.  I am very thankful to the Congressional office where I interned for giving me the opportunity to work at the office.  I am also very thankful to the sponsors of my scholarship, which was a tremendous help.  With my senior year approaching, I can say with confidence that I would love to work in Washington upon graduation.

1 

23August2011

My Summer Internship- Par 2

Posted by cedalessio under: Summer 2011.

For my second blog post, I’m going to talk a little bit about everyday life as an intern in Washington and what I did in my spare time. Being an intern in Washington, especially during the summer, is a fantastic experience. Every summer, interns from all over the country, and all over the world, descend on Washington. This makes for a great opportunity to meet a bunch of new people, see the sights, and gain valuable work experience.

One of the first things I did after I officially accepted my internship was to begin searching for a place to stay. With so many interns looking for places to live, if you wait too long, it can be difficult to find a place. After considering a number of options, I decided that my best bet was to stay in a dorm at the Foggy Bottom campus of George Washington University. I really enjoyed living at Foggy Bottom. I lived directly across the street from the Foggy Bottom metro stop, which was conveniently located on the same line as the Capitol South stop, which I got off at each day for work. Additionally, Foggy Bottom is within walking distance of both Georgetown and Dupont Circle, two popular areas within Washington. Finally, as part of the summer housing program at George Washington, I was able to use the George Washington University gym for free.

But the best part about living at George Washington was that I was in a dorm with other interns from all over the country. I really enjoyed hanging out with the other interns. It was always easy to find things to do on the weekends, or go grab a quick bite to eat. In addition to meeting tons of new people in my dorm, I was also able to hang out with the many William and Mary students interning in Washington for the summer. With so many students living in the northern Virginia area, it is not surprising that there are many William and Mary students interning in Washington for the summer.

Comments Off on My Summer Internship- Par 2 

23August2011

My Summer Internship- Part 1

Posted by cedalessio under: Summer 2011.

Hey! My name is Chris D’Alessio. I’m a rising senior Government and History major at the College. This summer, I interned for a member of Congress. I’ll be blogging about how I got my internship and everyday life as an intern in Washington.

I think it’s probably best to start with how I got my summer internship in Washington. During the spring semester, I participated in the William and Mary in Washington Program, which was a great experience. For somebody interested in politics, there is no better city to live in than Washington. After only a few weeks in Washington, I knew that I would like to find a way to stay in Washington and intern for the summer. I was particularly interested in the possibility of interning with a member of Congress.

In early March, I began applying for internships on the Hill. I quickly learned that members of Congress typically have a section on their website where they list both the requirements for applying to intern with their office and the application deadlines. Most of the applications asked for resumes, cover letters, and a college writing sample, or an essay about why you wanted to intern on the Hill. In the end, I submitted about five applications to different members of Congress.

After I submitted my applications, one of the offices asked to interview me. Because I was already in Washington for the semester, I was able to do the interview in person, as opposed to over the phone. A few days after the interview, the office offered me a position for the summer. I was really excited and quickly accepted.

Comments Off on My Summer Internship- Part 1 

22August2011

We are not in Williamsburg Anymore

Posted by vanessaremmers under: Summer 2011.

One of my final days as a Reporting Intern at Talk Radio News Service consisted of covering a press conference of Congressional Republicans banding together to blast President Obama for threatening non-payment of Social Security checks if the debt ceiling were not raised by August 2nd and a budget compromise not struck. It was one of those rare moments in the political world when partisan arguments reverse themselves in order to remain in opposition to the other party. I seized such a moment to create an article lede my supervisor thought worthy enough to publish:

“Republicans from both chambers banded together Thursday to argue something out of the ordinary in light of recent debt negotiations: there is plenty of money.

At least for social security.”

At the head of the Republican gang was Virginian Republican Congressman Eric Cantor. Hearing him speak, the moment became more than just political intrigue. Of course, the words rang with the partisan banter I had heard since day one. The first day my eyes may have grown big with all of this emotional language, but, by my last assignment, my political filter was well in tact.

Yet this particular assignment offered more than just further practice for my political filter. It served as a milestone in my internship experience. I was listening to a Virginia Senator responding to the pressures of the debt negotiations, knowing that by the end of the day such news will play on local news channels around my home. Even this lowly intern at the bottom of the media food chain felt like she was making a difference. Political filters aside, providing the news of the most relevant discussions of the day affected change; I was at the front lines of political battles, a place I had only dreamed about before. In all, it was a perfect moment for my last week in Washington, DC.

 

2 

18August2011

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!

 

Ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

 

4 

18August2011

DC: From the Inside Out

Posted by vanessaremmers under: Summer 2011.

Yesterday was my first stakeout. When my boss told me that I was assigned to a stakeout in the Ohio Clock corridor of the Capitol Building, I shook my head enthusiastically, assented then immediately turned to a fellow intern to ask what a stakeout was. Definition: Political journalists from all over Washington stand in the hallways of the Capitol Building, and literally chase down Senators as they exit from their respective policy luncheons. My eyes must have become wide as the definition of stakeout was explained to me because I received a pat on the back and encouraging remarks that all will be fine as long as I follow the more experienced crowd of journalists.

The next day, I rode the elevator to Ohio Clock Corridor with three other journalists turning on their recorders. The smell of crab cakes flooded the elevator as we hit the second floor of the Capitol: it was seafood week in the world of political policy lunches.As the elevator doors opened, I became one in a sea of bustling pen and pads, press badges and pointed recorders. Capitol Security roped the media in with a long red rope until the desired politician exited his policy lunch and the reporter was allowed to literally chase him or her down to get their quote.

Those masters of the stakeout were not afraid to be aggressive. The most daring of them jumped into the “Senator Only” elevators, trapping the Senators into talking with them. This practice, while frowned upon, is still used by the most hard-lined or desperate reporters, depending on how you look at it. Within five minutes, I knew a scrambling bundle of black coats meant that I should push my way through such a crowd to get soundbites from the all-improtant politician in the center of the pack. One such pack contained Senator John McCain, expressing his opinion on the controversy surrounding the punishment of war criminals. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) was the center of another pack, firing verbal insults on Congressional Democrats for their lack of rationale in the budget debates.

At one point, I found myself looking straight in the expecting eyes of Senator James Inofe (R-Ok), waiting for a question from me. I asked the first question that popped into my head: “Do you think the August 2nd deadline for a budget negotiation is a real deadline?” The short version of his answer was no.

I came away from my first stakeout reeling from the fact that I had asked a Senator an interview question like the rest of the stakeouters, feeling like I had just had my own Capitol-Hill version of Hollywood Walk of Fame. My supervisors were pleased with my off-the-cuff question, and even used it as a feature article. My first stakeout day will stand apart from my other days at Talk Radio News Service as the first that I felt I ran with the rest of the real journalistic pack.

1 

18August2011

Inside Edition: Interning for Congressman Hurt

Posted by mlcrews under: Summer 2011.

As the summer comes to a close, I decided to think back about all the awesome stuff I have done as part of my internship. In this blog I want to talk about some of those things!

Tele-Town Hall Meeting: In July I was able to participate in a “Tele-Town Hall Meeting.” This is a great tool for Congressmen who are stuck in DC for periods of time to reach out to their constituents. A computer automated program calls phone numbers from people in a certain part of the district and they are able to listen from their homes as others ask questions to the Congressman. It was amazing to me how many people we could reach in that one hour on a Thursday night that may not have been able to attend an actual town hall meeting in the district.

Projects: This summer I worked with the staff as well as the other interns in the office on a number of projects. For one such project the other interns and I were put in charge of compiling spreadsheets that listed key people, organizations, businesses, and events in the district. These spreadsheets are now used by the Congressman as an outreach tool for times he’s in the district. It is rewarding to me to know that something I worked on is able to directly help Mr. Hurt.

I have also been working with the staff in our office on constituent case work. The information I deal with is confidential and can sometimes be sensitive, which at times can be difficult to work through. Overall it’s been very interesting to see firsthand the relationship between normal people and the federal government, as well as congressional staff and the government.

District Work Week: Since the last time I wrote I’ve had the chance to meet Mr. Hurt! While the House is out of session on district work period, Congressman Hurt has been out in the district. I got to attend a dinner at a local restaurant where Mr. Hurt spoke to constituents dining there and allowed for an open discussion about issues people have with the federal government. It was awesome to see him up close in action as he listened to concerns from people in the area on everything from the upcoming GOP presidential race to highway construction in the area.

Overall working for Congressman Hurt this summer has been a rewarding experience. I’ll miss the protesters, endless phone calls about the debt ceiling, and smiles on the people’s faces that we’re able to help out, but I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to starting my senior year!

1 

Summer Interns

If you want to add yourself to this blog, please log in.