I have been interning in the office of Congressman Don Young who is the representative for all Alaska. Although it may seem to some that a congressman from Alaska may not have as much clout as a congressman from New York or Virginia, he has played an important role in moving this country forward via the Keystone Pipeline and other crucial projects this country vitally needs and I have been lucky enough to play a miniscule part in it.
My duties in the congressman’s office extend from responding to constituent mail to procuring notes for the congressman and his legislative assistants. When I’m not observing the congressman or sitting in on congressional hearings, my duties are: sort the office mail, answer phones, assist constituents with tours, etc.
My greatest insight into the “process” came when I was in the act of writing a letter to an infuriated constituent regarding arbitration agreements in consumer contracts. At the beginning of my campaign to respond intellectually, I had no clue as to what consumer contracts were so I started my research there. During my inquiry, I found that the proposed legislation would be beneficial to all parties involved. The question of “Why?” popped into my head. Why wouldn’t every congressman want to cosponsor this legislation? My curiosity got the best of me so I researched further as to whom had cosponsored the legislation. Sure enough, every congressman and congresswoman to sponsor/cosponsor the legislation was a democrat. I chalked the refusal of the legislation on the House floor up to a battle where partisan bullets were being utilized. The second week into my internship I had savored the bitter taste of partisan politics.
Some of my more menial tasks include reading/sorting emails for legislative assistants. Even though this is a highly tedious job that is despised by past, present, and, I’m sure, future interns, I find it highly entertaining and intellectual. I always start with the legislative assistant’s mail whom handles foreign affairs and armed services. Having the benefit of reading emails/mail from people who are informed and write in to their congressman bequeaths a wealth of knowledge. For example, one email I read dealt with the Iraqi Dinar. I wasn’t quite familiar with the Dinar so I volunteer to respond to the letter so that I could research the issue as well as concisely reply to the constituent. A couple of hours and a few draft letters later, I had accurately responded to the email and in doing so, I acquired valuable information on the Dinar and also European currency.
Moreover, although reading emails, answering phones, writing emails to angry constituents, bandaging endless paper cuts, baring the long drive after class are humble tasks, there is a silver lining. My favorite part of the internship, thus far, has been the access to committee meetings. Every morning, I grab a CQ and locate the section that contains the time and location of the convening committees. At these meetings I have been graced with the opportunity to talk to lobbyists, generals, admirals, and even the Secretary of State at one juncture. Having the great benefit to converse with influential individuals about issues ranging from postal stamps to the Arab Spring has given me a thorough knowledge of our political system and has been an invaluable and enlightening experience which, I’m sure, will help me later in my foreign affairs career.
Last edited by billmcd; 06-Mar-2012 at 18:38.