A 'Capitol' experience
For the first half of this summer, I had an opportunity to be a part of the swamp.
Congress has dozens of internship opportunities available for high school and college kids every summer, where you can work for a U.S. House representative, senator, or a committee. This is a wonderful way to spend a chunk of your summer seeing how our government works.
I’m a student at Ave Maria University just outside of Naples, FL, where I’m working towards a double major in political economy and government and history. This summer, I worked for Rep. Mark Sanford, who represents South Carolina’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which runs from Awendaw to Hilton Head and includes Daniel Island.
It’s certainly a fast-paced position. Each day is different - you could be searching for an obscure office deep in the labyrinthine tunnels of the Capitol complex one day and helping to keep track of an important bill for the legislative staffers the next. You attend hearings and briefings on many diverse subjects - a memorable one I went to ended with Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) agreeing with Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and Sen. Mike Lee (UT) on the issue of a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or an AUMF. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Whenever interest groups come in, go to their briefings, because you’ll often get a free lunch. You’ll find yourself feeding a newfound caffeine addiction at the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts in the basement, and Tortilla Coast is a happy hour favorite for all the offices.
It’s not all fun and games, however. Interns have two main responsibilities - we answer phones for the Member of Congress and we give tours of the Capitol to constituents who visit Washington, D.C. (These tours are free of charge. Contact the office of your representative). You never know who you might run into on a tour. One family I toured got to shake hands with Vice President Mike Pence while we were in the Rotunda. There’s always lots of paperwork to complete, and you certainly won’t run out of work to do.
I had the unique experience of interning during a primary, where State Rep. Katie Arrington defeated my boss, Rep. Sanford. This became a national news story, and the phones were ringing off the hook the next day. It felt like we got exposed to the entire political spectrum of America, as we took calls from avowed Nazis as well as avowed Communists. People called up to give condolences, offer suggestions, or gloat.
There was palpable sadness in the office, as my coworkers would now have to find new jobs. However, this is the cutthroat world of politics, where fortunes change on a dime. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and it testifies to the fickleness of our democracy.
All that being said, I had a blast in D.C. I got to see many important political figures, and I learned a great deal of the intricate processes that govern us all through the Congress. We all should stay informed and vote, but if you want to get behind the scenes, a Congressional internship could be the starting point for you!
Max Bodach, now a student at Ave Maria University in Florida, is a 2017 graduate of Bishop England High School. In March of 2017, he served as a student panelist at the 2nd Annual Intergenerational Forum on Daniel Island, an event that brings together representatives of the younger generation and senior citizens in a public setting to glean their perspectives on issues facing humanity, our country, and the world today.