I just completed my first full-week on the Hill!
I have learned all the basics of being an intern: Answering the phone, sorting mails, sitting at the front desk, searching for places in the expansive Capitol underground tunnel…. While I do not think that I have mastered everything yet, I think I am on the right track. I have learned to pick up my mistakes as I go.
What really comforts me is that everyone in the office has just been incredibly generous and friendly to me. Some staffers interned on the Hill in their younger days, if not in the same office! They definitely understand most emotions that I’m going through – the never-ending excitement, nerves, frustration – and are always willing to offer advice and help.
Writing decision memos for my Congresswoman (we refer to her as just Niki) and her staffers has just been one of the most direct, enriching learning experiences I’ve had in my life. During my interview for this internship, my intern coordinator told me that I’d actually help researching bills and letters so that the Congresswoman would be informed on the issues. I never expected that I would actually do that as much as I do right now. It has only been my second week, but I’ve already completed two decision memos on two very different topics – one on environmental issues and one on customer protection. In order to inform the staffers and the Congresswoman on the issue, I have to become informed on the issue first. So, essentially, as I write these memos, I try to absorb as much knowledge as I can and then shoot it out in plain words.
Niki has been the best boss that one can hope for. On Wednesday after the shooting in which four people were shot, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalice, Niki bought pizza for the entire office and invited us to eat lunch in her office. She offered any assistance that she could provide for us. The next day, she bought the entire office tickets to see the Congressional baseball game. She even sat with us, not with other members and important people like Ivanka Trump or Wolf Blitzer in the VIP section, and bought us hot dogs!
And the game itself was just a phenomenon experience. To show solidarity after the tragic event that took place the day before, almost 25,000 people attended the event. Continuing the 108 years tradition of overlooking ideology differences and competing political agendas, Democrats and Republicans put on their baseball gears and and come together to play a charity baseball game. With the exceptions of a few people who played in college, none of the players were professionals – some of them even seemed a little too old to swing the bat – but it was still a wonderful gathering. Staffers brought their families, interns brought friends: Everyone sat together eating classic ballpark food, drinking beer (I didn’t have one because I’m not 21), and jabbing about the Presidents’ Race or other silly things in life. (Dems crushed the Republicans, by the way, and won 11-2!!)
Especially after the shooting, the country now calls more urgently for unity. While I cannot say that I agree with the current administration or Republican lawmakers on many issues, I know, for sure, that all of us want to make this country, and this world, a better place. We differ, greatly, on how to achieve that goal, but ultimately we are all here trying to help those in need and make a difference big or small.
At the end of the day, we are united in our love for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And hotdogs, sriracha, non-crowded metro trains, free Soul Cycle classes, Congressional briefings on topics one has no idea about but still attends because of free lunch……
Before I started my internship, I found out that a Congressman who had had some very terrible, anti-Muslim posts on his Facebook page works two doors down from my office. I was petrified and even considered taking a different route to the elevators. A week later, I now realize that there is nothing to fear. His fun-loving, smart staffers and interns are just like the fun-loving, smart staffers and interns in my office. We might have different opinions on many, many, many issues and don’t interact much socially, but we are all here for the same reason.
This is by far the best lesson I’ve learned since I arrived in D.C.: Always seek for the common love and emotions that we share. Don’t look for reasons to dislike anyone and give everything a chance. With an open mind, I soon find that, without knowing who their boss is, I can even still have a very nice conversation with interns from the office of a senator who I detested during the election!
(Me and other interns from my office holding the hotdogs that Niki bought us!)