It’s crazy to me that I am halfway through my internship experience in DC. I still haven’t decided if it feels like I have been here for a long time or I just got here, but probably the latter. This week has actually been a pretty busy one for me. Between all sorts of briefings, meetings, and projects at work and my mom coming into town this weekend (!) I feel like the days have been whizzing past.
One of the areas we focus on in our office is STEAM, integrating the ‘A’ for Arts in STEM education. As a musician and someone who has dabbled in the other performing arts, I am absolutely in love with concept. Today I had a chance to attend an event with NW Noggin, an organization that teaches neurology and psychology through arts to K-12 students and other community audiences, and they also happen to be from the Portland Metro area! The cool thing about attending these events (other than the free lunch) is you never know what you might be in for. Last week I went to one with a NASA astronaut and a whole host of other cool space tech, but this time it was brains. Yes, part of the curriculum that they teach for basic neurology includes holding a real (preserved) brain. Regrettably, as I glanced over the brain table after the presentation, I instantly became much to squeamish to consider touching one. Congresswoman Bonamici, however; had no fear picking one up, and I even snapped a picture of her that made it onto her Facebook page! Maybe one day I’ll have the same scientific bravery.
One of the benefits of working on a regular schedule is you can regularly do other things, like exercise. Though DC is a big city, it is a great place for recreation of every kind. On any given day you can find people playing ultimate frisbee or softball in the fields of the National Mall, and people jogging, walking dogs, or biking all around the monuments.
Now I have done some running before, but never really made it habitual. When I arrived in DC, I set the goal to be able to run to the Washington Monument and back, about 4 1/4 miles. Seemed like a decent enough start for a still admittedly novice runner. Well, after about two weeks of running I was easily able to do that, so I had to set a more lofty goal. How about to the Lincoln Memorial and back? Now THAT would be a run at almost 6 miles! I knew I could do it if I was in the right mindset and the weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity. On Saturday I got up to a gray and dreary day. Very reminiscent of home actually, which was comforting. By 10:00 I made my way over to the free morning yoga class at the Botanical Gardens and got thoroughly soaked going over there. As I trudged my way over to the museum I knew that this was my day to run all the way to the Lincoln, rain or not. So after yoga I popped in my headphones and started out. Little to my surprise I made it back to TMH, a dripping noodle, in under an hour, excited about my achievement. Now I can’t stop thinking about where I might run to next. Up the Georgetown canal path? Over to the South Waterfront? Who knew I could see so much of DC just on foot!
Wow! I can’t believe I have already been in D.C. for a month! The time truly does fly when you’ve got so many amazing things to do, people to meet, and sights to see.
Today I actually got to part of the process of how legislation passes through Congress. Well, almost. I helped deliver a fresh bill introduced by the Congresswoman onto the House docket. In Congress it’s a bit more complicated than just “introducing a bill” to Congress. Our team spent hours developing the legislation, signing on co-sponsors and coordinating with the related bill on the Senate side. So really, delivering the bill to the Speaker of the House is a huge step within itself. I am excited to watch this piece of legislation as it makes it ways through the process. Do you recall the “I’m just a bill” song from School House Rock?
One of the other “behind-the-scenes” jobs I get to do as a Congressional intern is research topics for our staff. Most students groan familiarly at the thought of a research project, but when you have plenty of office time and informational resources to do your project in, it makes things quite a bit easier. It is also pretty cool to know that the questions you are answering and responses you are creating could someday inspire some real policymaking. Another benefit of doing these small research projects is that you can quickly become a pseudo-expert in certain topic. Since I am mainly interested in education policy, I have enjoyed learning more intricately about the public education system and federal financial aid.
On the rare occasions I get bored or tired, I always remember that I am here in this internship to learn about the policymaking process and my area of interest, so why not spend my time doing just that!
Everywhere I turn there seems to be another amazing opportunity ready to jump out from around the corner and on Monday, it was exceptionally unique.
At around 4:15 I was going about my regular business of researching and drafting letters when I get an email from my supervisor: “The Secretary of Education is coming in for a meeting with the Congresswoman at 4:30 and we want you to sit in on the meeting. Be ready to go.” My eyes went wide. Is this really happening? We’re talking about THE Secretary of Education and Presidential Cabinet member, Dr. John King. I was ready to go at 4:30.
After being introduced personally to Secretary King I attentively listened to Congresswoman Bonamici and Secretary King discuss the future of public education. I was impressed, but not surprised at their ability to smoothly and intelligently converse over many topics and learned a lot from their expertise and pointed conversation. It’s the things like this that makes me excited to go into the office everyday; you just don’t know what might happen or who might walk into the door.
Friday wrapped up my first week interning during the House Session, which I have come to learn is a lot different (in a good way) than recess. With the Congresswoman in, the front office has to deal with many incoming meetings a day, plus tours, phones, and other special errands. It is quite exciting in the halls of the Capitol buildings!
Out of all the returned chaos, however, the Congresswoman had time in her schedule host all four of us interns in her office for a Q&A over lunch, a rare opportunity for Hill interns! I was excited about this meeting not only to personally meet the name on the office door, but to learn what drove her to public service and what advice she had for us aspiring leaders
Through our candid conversation I was humbled to learn that when she was younger, Congresswoman Bonamici never really saw herself in this type of national office. It was through hard work, encouragement, and the timely ringing of opportunity that brought her into this position. I was inspired by her constant consideration of the needs of her community and thoughtfulness presented in every action and decision. And, as one of only eighty-four women serving in the House of Representatives, I especially appreciate her leadership that encourages young women like me to get involved in the political process.
She advised us to make the most out of internship and meet as many people and attend as many hearings and briefings as possible. Since I am interested in education policy, and the Congresswoman happens to be very involved with it in her work, I asked “what do you envision as the perfect public education system.” Her answer was simple, “Something that inspires the joy of learning.”
What else is there to do on the weekends except have grand adventures!
On Saturday’s agenda: the top of the Washington Monument and the White House Spring Garden Tour.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in D.C., enough so to warrant my first sunburn of the season.
One of the really neat things about doing things in D.C. is that majority of the time it is free, subsidized through the National Park Service. At the Washington Monument I was meeting with my cohort of interns to head to the top of the 555 ft. structure, skipping the atrocious lines with our advance tickets. Thankfully, once inside the Monument, an elevator zips you up to the top in around 70 seconds. I couldn’t imagine climbing up all those stairs. The view from the top was spectacular, especially in the blue sky and full sun. You could practically see all of the District (well, it is pretty small) and of course all of the miniature-looking landmarks. On the way down in the elevator, the “ride” even slowed down to show the decorative stones donated by states that help support the monument. Definitely a must-do when in D.C.
After the Monument, me and a friend walked down the street to the LONG lines at the
annual White House Spring Garden Tour. Once we made it to the grounds, I was in love
with the flourishing garden beds of tulips and beautifully maintained scenery. Not to mention I was steps away from the front door of the White House! The President’s Own Marine Band serenaded us as we walked around the central fountain and by the kitchen garden. I sometimes still get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of history that has occurred in the places I visit. I hope to be back to the White House soon.
One of the things that I absolutely love about interning on the Hill is the constant hub-bub. Every corner you turn you can find a new event, hearing, article, project, or anything that might pique your interest. I jumped at the opportunity to research and attend committee hearings and scrawl notes to decipher their remarks in short memos. Today, I was set to attend a Senate education committee hearing on the implementation of the United States newest elementary and secondary education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. While I eagerly made my way through the Capitol maze, I decided to jump on one of the fancy rail trains that transport members and staff from the Capitol to the Senate buildings. As I sat down on the train, two women dashed into the car in front of me. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘they must need to be going somewhere fast.’ When one of the women turned around, I recognized her as none other than Senator Elizabeth Warren! Starstruck, I exchanged amazement with the staffer sitting across from me. As I walked into the hearing room just in time for the committee to come to order I realized why the Senator might have been rushing, she was headed to that same hearing that I was (as a Committee member, of course).
As a qualified political nerd, it is pretty amazing to say you have seen some of the most revered Washington superstars, even if it only is in passing. I’m still crossing my fingers for a run in with the President, or better yet, the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny!