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Women's Ice Hockey
October 31, 2018
This summer I was privileged enough to intern for Congressman Quigley in Illinois’ 5th district. As a soon-to-be Government concentrator this internship was surely in my wheelhouse. At the start of the summer I was excited at the prospect of getting a “behind the scenes pass” to the Congressman’s office and meeting other likeminded interns.
Immediately the staff was beyond welcoming and attentive for the duration of the summer. My main job consisted of constituent services, so in many cases I was the first line of support for constituents where I then directed them to a caseworker in the office. Helping constituents consisted of the bulk of my summer and is also where I gained the most experience. My encounters with different constituents ranges all the way from inspiring to…well, let’s go with bizarre. In one instance a constituent was convinced that me and the rest of the office were running a totalitarian regime because we do not have jurisdiction to reverse her local traffic ticket. Her solution: Fix the Constitution! I would like to think that I had lots of power to yield in my mighty internship position, but sadly amending the Constitution of the Unites States of America is just out of my control.
Although, angry constituents were definitely an anomaly among an overwhelming number of well-meaning people doing their best to exercise their civic duties. Under the constituent services umbrella, part of my job was to log calls when people wanted to leave their opinion on a certain topical issue. When the family separation crisis at the border reached its climax this summer, I was at the forefront for the mass of constituent calls. I was genuinely surprised by the outpour of support for immigrants and their families. I was constantly asked, “What else can I do?” People were personally motivated to join the effort to make sure this crisis didn’t fall out of the public’s, and most importantly the government’s, attention. It gave me a lot of hope that beneath the perpetual division that is amplified frequently on the news, there are still people concerned about the simple well-being of others.
Moving forward, I was excited to start this semester and apply the experiences of my internship to my classes. One of the classes I’m taking this semester is a government class called Electoral Politics. It takes a quantitative approach to analyzing election patterns. The broad focus of the course consists of studying these questions: Who wins elections? How do public preferences affect elections and how well are they represented? With midterms coming up I thought, “What better time than now?” Right now we are studying the types of people that vote or don’t vote in Congressional elections. It’s amazing how simple ingredients like being informed and actually voting are so often under-looked for their enormous role in the larger recipe of government representation.
I’ll end by saying that I couldn’t be more grateful for the exposure I gained this summer. The resilient ambition of the staff was deeply inspiring. I hope when I join the workforce I can maintain the determination to help others the entire staff exhibited despite many frustrating challenges. Lastly, as I’m learning in a few of my classes right now, voting is the simplest form of political participation and in numbers can be the most powerful. When constituents asked me what else they could do, knowing what I know now, I would say: Educate yourself on the issues and vote. The upcoming election is a critical turning point in our government, let’s take advantage of it.