Simpson senior interns in Congress over summer

Simpson senior interns in Congress over summer

by Jacy Gomez, Special to The Simpsonian [email protected]

We’ve all experienced the sentiment that Congress is the opposite of progress. Like most of my peers, I too have been known to voice my frustration with our nation’s lawmakers and their inability to work together to seek actual solutions for the problems facing our nation.

In the midst of constant budget face-offs, government shutdowns and political scandals that prevent laws from being created, I found myself wondering: What does Congress actually do in Washington D.C.? I had the opportunity to seek answers to the aforementioned question this past summer when, in an exciting and surprising turn of events, I traveled to Washington D.C. to be a legislative intern for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Those of you who know me might not be surprised that I would seek out such an internship considering my involvement on the Simpson Speech and Debate team. However, despite my interest in politics and current events, I truly had no interest in leaving Iowa or pursuing anything government-related.

Like many great opportunities in college, my decision to apply for the internship was last-minute and a bit impulsive. A family friend emailed me about the internship two days before the application deadline. In a typical “why not?” fashion, I frantically placed a rush order on my transcripts, emailed professors for letters of recommendation and put together a statement of intent to be emailed to Sen. Grassley’s office.

From there on, everything fell into place perfectly. One month and two phone interviews later, I was officially offered an intern position with Sen. Grassley.

I found myself moving into a tiny efficiency apartment right across the street from the Hart Senate Building on a Saturday in mid-May.

After two days of exploring the monuments and Smithsonian museums, I was headed to work for my first time! Amidst constant face-offs about the Patriot Act, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Iran Nuclear Agreement, I somehow fell into the inner workings of the United States Government.

As a legislative intern, I had the opportunity to work directly with legislative assistants and correspondents to research various issues, bills and laws affecting constituents. I found myself responding to constituent correspondence, gathering information on new legislation and even doing some speech writing of my own.

Although there was certainly plenty of work to keep me busy at the office, my internship offered a whole host of learning opportunities. As an intern, I had access to the Capitol during committee hearings, floor votes, debates and lectures from prominent political figures like Nancy Pelosi and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As an added bonus, you might be able to snag a quick picture of well-known senators like Rand Paul and John McCain using the Capitol Subway System or eating in the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Building.

My internship in D.C. presented me with unlimited possibilities to explore in such a small amount of time. However, among all the valuable lessons I learned from working under our nation’s lawmakers, I learned that these political figures are human just like you and me.

They, too, take Christmas photos with their families to pass around to all their colleagues. They, too, enjoy celebrating birthday parties in the office with cake and ice cream. They, too, appreciate thank you notes and acknowledgement of their hard work and advocacy for various causes. They, too, sometimes need an additional push to get things done. They, too, make mistakes and sometimes get it wrong.

While we are justified in being highly frustrated with our politicians at times, we do not think nearly enough about all the great causes being advocated for in Congress like the 21st Century Cures Act that aims to speed up the process for scientific discovery and health treatments for various diseases to find cures for people who need them.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that, despite conflicting ideologies and political platforms, the politicians I worked with are trying to make this country a better place. Tangible progress or not, that goal is a commendable feat.