Seniors Allie Atkeson and Andrew Chai have spent the last two months learning the realities of government up close by interning for our district’s Congresswoman, Jackie Speier.
Atkeson, who is passionate about political science, is hoping to pursue a career in politics later in life. She greatly respects the congresswoman as a person and admires her constant fight for women’s and veterans’ rights. One of the main reasons for Atkeson’s application to this internship was her hope to join the cause.
Likewise, Chai, who has served on his class’s cabinet for the past two years, is also considering a career in politics.
“This seemed like an opportunity to get[…] a small taste of the government without obviously having to get fully involved[…] Personally, if I were to get into government, I would look into federal national government, not state, which is why I chose the congresswoman over, say, Senator Hill” Chai said.
The program itself involved a highly competitive application process that included a resume, questionnaire, and interview for acceptance. Speier’s office employs around ten to fifteen interns in total. However, they all work on different days, and there are only about four in the office at one time. Both Atkeson and Chai work around two days a week.
A typical day on the job might include working on case studies, researching, and helping constituents with their daily needs.
“Most of the time, we all answer phone calls. I sometimes work on casework, help research, particularly immigration stuff. It’s been a cool, new experience for me. [The work environment] is really friendly and understanding. And I think everyone works super hard because we all know that we’re working to reach a higher goal” Atkeson said.
While the interns do not generally work directly with Congresswoman Speier, as she spends the majority of her time in Washington, they work with her staffers on projects that get presented to Speier herself.
Both students have greatly enjoyed the experience so far and have found government to be the opposite of the detached and useless place the media makes it out to be.
“In terms of the politics, [I learned] it’s a lot more about the people than we think. It always seems like the government is so far away, but in actuality, we are just a phone call away” Chai said.
“It is really interesting for me to directly talk to people in the constituencies and I record a lot of people’s opinions who will call in with a political opinion or ask [Congresswoman Speier] to vote yes or no on a bill that’s coming through the house,” Atkeson explained.
In addition to their routine work, interns also have the opportunity to work on some special events. For example, Chai’s favorite experience thus far has been taking part in a Military Academy Night, which was similar to a college presentation. Here, he had the chance to meet captains and other soldiers from the Navy, Air Force, and Army when they presented to high school students interested in serving their country.
While Atkeson barely missed the age cutoff for voting, she continuously stresses the importance of it.
“If anyone does turn eighteen by the election, please go vote because it matters a lot,” said Atkeson.
If given a chance to vote, Atkeson would support Clinton. Chai, who will be voting in the upcoming election is still undecided but believes he is likely to support Clinton as well.
Easton Cullen, a senior who acted as the assistant to the head director in California for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, ironically does not support Cruz at all.
“He’s not really radical like he was very conservative, but normal of what you would expect of someone who is conservative, so I didn’t necessarily support him, but I don’t have strong vocal views per say. I am kinda moderateish. But he’s too conservative for me,” Cullen said.
However, Cullen admits to not disagreeing on everything Cruz has to offer.
Some of his responsibilities on the job included registering people for various activities and managing endorsements. Cullen benefitted from working at home due to the amount of computer work. In reality, Cullen only ended up working on the campaign for around five months and was happy when Cruz dropped out of the race before the California primary because it left much of his summer open.
One of the highlights of the summer work for Cullen was having the opportunity to meet Ted Cruz and seeing Carly Fiorina.
Overall this experience did not inspire Cullen to consider a career in politics. However, when asked if he would work on Cruz’s campaign again if he ran for office once more, Cullen responded with a hesitant “sure.” He is too young to be voting in the upcoming presidential election, but Cullen supports Clinton.