Sunday, November 6, 2011

In the Shadow of a Senator- A Day with Senator Merkley

Here in D.C., and around the U.S. interns are used to being in the shadows. This is not to say we aren’t doing substantive or important work, but rather that we recognize our transient nature, and that for some, this means credit is not always given credit where credit is due.

Thus far I have had an absolutely wonderful internship experience at Senator Merkley’s office: I’ve fallen in love with a new policy area, my LC and LA have incorporated me into the team and make sure I have exciting project each week, and I’ve had lunches with the Senator and all the upper level staff. Furthermore, last Wednesday I had a chance to shadow the Senator for the whole day.

While most Americans are under the misconceptions that Senators are lazy, do-nothings who socialize all day, if you’ve taken Professor Pitney’s Congress class you know how busy they really are. On Wednesday, I began my day with the Senator at 8:30, because that is when I come into work. He however, had already been working for hours, going to meetings, researching legislation and taking phone calls. In my nine hours with the Senator, we attended seven meetings, were on the floor once for a speech and once to preside, gave a press conference, met with various staff members and attended committee hearings. We never even had time for lunch. I’d always seen the Senator running in and out of the office, but I never truly appreciated the rigors of his schedule until I spent the day running in my heels, trying to keep up with him.

The coolest parts of the day were getting to speak with the Senator about current issues, his time on the Hill and the work that he’s done in the past. Senator Merkley is unique in that he, as a college student, interned for Senator Hatfield, whose seat he now holds. Because of this he has a special appreciation and understanding of the work us interns do. Few get a chance to spend an entire day with their boss, nonetheless a Senator. It is an experience I will always cherish. As an intern in D.C. you’re going to work hard, toil over projects you love, run errands you hate, and stand in awe of the individuals in whose shadows you stand.

*Also, it was fun to have my name on CSPAN/ entered into the congressional record when the Senator asked for unanimous consent to allow me to have floor privileges for the day.

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