Capitol Hill received a boost in Principian representation this past year with two students’ serving as interns for congressmen in the House of Representatives.
Junior Cameron Douglas traveled to Washington, D.C. in late August to begin his internship with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the congressman for Virginia’s sixth district, and returned in mid-December.
The internship mainly comprised of taking constituent calls, along with viewing and responding to constituent emails. “First thing in the morning, would be to go through all the emails that would come in. And then in the afternoon, we’d get stacks of postal mail,” he said.
Besides being a messenger, Douglas went to various committee meetings throughout the week. “[Representatives] have committee hearings. I went to a number of those as part of my weekly routine. At committee hearings, there are several committees and each committee has at least three or four sub-committees,” he said. “In the Judiciary Committee, which [Goodlatte] is chairman of, we would do things on constitutionality of executive actions of President Obama. On the other end of the spectrum, I went to a Science Committee hearing on astrobiology.”
Occasionally, Douglas had the privilege of giving private tours of the Capitol building to small groups, families and individuals by request.
Douglas was on the scene during the government shutdown. He passed messages from citizens on to Goodlatte. The range of opinions he heard while recieving calls varied. According to Douglas, some people said, “What are you doing? Re-open the government – yesterday!” while others said “‘You better not cave in!’” Douglas knew one thing for sure: “Nobody was pleased.”
Despite not receiving credit for his political science major, Douglas still appreciated his time in DC. “He is one of the two Christian Scientists in the House, and that’s part of why I was drawn to his office,” Douglas said.
More than anything else, Douglas was surprised by the bipartisan cooperation. “One of the things that really struck me is the amount of professionalism across party lines. The big rancor gets all the media attention,” he said. “Especially on the staff level, people get along across party lines pretty well. It’s something you don’t really expect.”
Douglas felt reserved about working at the federal level again in the future. “Washington is huge and ridiculously competitive. While it’s not something that I’m not necessarily adverse to, it’s not the easiest thing to jump headlong into,” he said.
In retrospect, Douglas wished that he had worked for a younger congressman. “There’s a sort of trade-off between working for a younger legislator and working for somebody who’s been in Congress longer than I’ve been alive,” he said. “Just the ability to get more involved with the other offices. It’s something I kind of wish I’d known going in. But I definitely had a good experience and enjoyed my time there regardless.”
This past summer, sophomore Shontee Pant spent over two months as an intern for Rep. Rodney Davis. She was drawn to Davis’ office because he represents Illinois’ 13th congressional district, where Principia is located.
When asked about her usual tasks, Pant said, “I answered constituent calls, helped with mailers, attended committee hearings and wrote memos for the legislative staff, gave tours of the Capitol, worked on research projects for the legislative staff, and did whatever projects the office needed me to work on.”
Pant said that while in DC, “I met a lot of people I would never ordinarily have the opportunity to meet, like Paul Ryan and John Boehner. I also got to tour the Pentagon and see a lot of the city. I saw a lot of amazing speakers like Gen. Martin Dempsey, and I was in the same building as Stephen Colbert.”
She feels she has a better idea of how the political world works, beyond the view the media provides. “More than anything, this taught me that politicians are really just like [other people] and the amount of time and energy that they dedicate to their country is remarkable,” she said.
Pant continued, “I remember watching the fireworks from the steps of the Capitol on the Fourth of July and realizing how grateful I was for this nation.” Further, Pant wanted to give gratitude for the opportunity she was given. “I am very grateful to the McClory Fund, Prin, Asher housing, and all those who made this experience possible,” she said.