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Keeping Up with Altmans: A Summer on Capitol Hill

June 12, 2016 6:45 PM
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Rising Altman Junior Danny Finley was busy on Capitol Hill before heading off for his Year Abroad in Brazil and Spain! Just after landing in Rio, Danny sent this dispatch about his summer as a Legislative Intern for Congressman Cedric Richmond. What an exciting time to be working in Washington, D.C., during one of the most newsworthy presidential election seasons in recent memory! Take it away, Danny!

"This summer I was a Legislative Intern in the Washington DC Office of Congressman Cedric L. Richmond. While I applied to the job without any connections, I did research Representative Richmond to ensure that we shared many of the same political beliefs! During a typical day in his office, I organized constituent communications, attended briefings, wrote memos for staffers, and answered calls. A large part of my work as an intern was organizing this communication and writing letters to thank the constituents for their civic engagement, explaining the Congressman's position on the particular topic, and describing what action is being taken by Congress. In addition to organizing responses, I responded to calls ranging from constituents to interest groups hoping to schedule a meeting with a staffer or the Congressman.  I also attended many briefings, organized by government institutions, committees, or third party groups typically regarding new legislation in order to summarize them for staffers to ensure that the staff was up to date on all new policies.  The fast pace nature of the Altman program prepared me for this internship, as I often balanced multiple tasks at once regarding many different subjects.  My economic knowledge assisted greatly as I often attended briefings by the Department of Labor regarding the economic impact of certain policies. I enjoyed briefings as they served as an opportunity to hear experts in fields debate the most contentious issues facing our country at the moment.

"Working in DC is an incredible opportunity for anyone interested in public service or the future of our country, especially during an election year.  Presidential candidates often visited the Hill, especially as the DC primary approached in June.  The fact that it was an election year was pertinent as bipartisanship was not as common a trend this summer as in others.  Constituents often called from both sides of the aisle frustrated with candidates from presidential tickets down to local elections. 

"The most interesting aspect for me of my internship was seeing the interaction between the work of Congressional offices, the politicians they represent, and media outlets.  As the main interview location for CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC was down the hall from the office, I often witnessed interviews with our country's top leaders.  Seeing the events that were happening around my office translate into headlines was fascinating.  For example, following the Orlando massacre, House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to force a vote on two gun control measures.  Congressman Richmond participated in the sit-in.  Seeing my boss talk on TV in the office, discussing names of victims of gun violence the interns and I provided for him, showed the translation of how the small tasks in the office can convert into what the average American would see on their nightly news.

"For future scholars interested in politics, I would first suggest researching where you believe you stand on political issues.  I say believe because issues are often posed as binary, rather than multifaceted, which is what they truly are.  Using a base knowledge of your beliefs and interests, you can then search for politicians or governmental organizations that unite the two.  Look at both federal and state level, political offices, and non-partisan ones.  By first casting a wide net of officials for whom you feel comfortable working or organizations that further a cause about which you are passionate, you can gain political experience to learn if this career path is the right one for you!"

Now that Danny has moved from DC to Rio de Janeiro, we can't wait to hear how his understanding of the political events taking place in Brazil compare to his experience on the Hill!