Deidre in Politics

Deidre is a junior political science and history major who has an internship with U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in Spring 2009. She also will be attending the weeklong Conservative Political Action Conference in February, working with and assisting lobbying groups, political action groups and politicians as an intern.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference

Upon arrival February 24 in Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was instantly struck with a conflict in my greatly planned-out and organized schedule. The airline I had traveled to Washington, D.C., on had lost my luggage. This had every article of clothing I had brought for my weeklong stay in D.C.

Frustrated and frantic I reported the bag lost and was assured it would probably be found. I was beyond stressed as my taxi drove me from Baltimore into Washington, but the second I began to see all of the Washington icons out of my window, I was immediately enthralled. Fortunately my luggage arrived at the Omni Shoreham Hotel at 1:30 am later that night.

My first full day of working for CPAC was filled with an ocean of blue bags. The other volunteers and I were given the job of filling as many gift bags as possible to supply to each of the 9,000 conference attendees. An assembly line was formed, and my job for the next six hours was to place a book donated to the attendees in each of the individual blue bags. These hours were filled with paper cuts and tired feet, but the pain was quelled by the conversations I got to have with all the other volunteers who had, like me, traveled from all regions of the United States to attend CPAC.

The job I was assigned to for the actual week of conference events included registration and assistance of the conference Diamond Members. These were conference guests who bought tickets that allowed them to have reserved premier seating to all the speeches as well as other benefits. I was able to meet and speak to these guests – many of whom are leaders in the conservative movement. The learning experience I had from just speaking and discussing issues with these people made the entire trip worth the effort. However, I was also able to experience some of the conference as well.

The staff of the American Conservative Union was very helpful getting the volunteers into speeches, banquets and meetings. I was fortunate enough to see very moving speeches by Newt Gingrich, Michael Steele, Ann Coulter and, of course, Rush Limbaugh. I was also given the opportunity to meet Senator John Cornyn, Bill Bennett and Tom Delay, and all were very generous and interested to speak to me and other volunteers on a personal level.

Although we worked from about 6am to 9pm every day, I was not going to let the opportunities I had to explore Washington, D.C., pass me by. One of my fellow volunteers was a student in Washington, D.C., and offered to drive me and another volunteer to see some important D.C. icons. I was able to visit the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, walk down the Mall to visit the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The night was cold and rainy, but it just added to the beauty and solemnity of these monuments.

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Interning in a Senator’s office

I have been working as an intern at Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office for almost a month now, and it has been an unexpected experience. The jobs and internships I have had prior to this have been definite learning experiences, but I have felt as if I were not a necessary member of the company. This is not so working in Senator Hutchison’s office!

With any entry-level internship there is a certain requirement of basic tasks that must be accomplished. However, I was surprised at the fast-paced atmosphere that a regional senatorial office can transform into instantly.

In my Intro to Government and Politics class, I got a basic sense of what goes on in a Senator’s office, and up to my start date I was under the impression that senators made legislative votes on bills and, as I quote Professor Dennis Simon, “Helping to get Grandma her missing Social Security checks.” It did not take long for me to realize how important these regional offices were.

During one day’s time I can be answering phone calls to take comments from constituents, reading news articles to become more informed of issues related to Texas and the Senator, and sorting through casework to help anyone from immigrants to babies in need of health care.

Involved citizens

This internship has also instilled a sense of appreciation for those who actually pay attention to the actions of the government. I grew up watching late-night shows such as Jay Leno, where they interview random people on the street who could not name the vice president or the capital of their own state. In my classes I have been told that a majority of the population is not informed as to how the government actually works, nor do they care.

However, I receive calls every day from private citizens who have questions or comments regarding Senate bills which I have to look up to reference. This has instilled in me a sense of pride in Americans, that there are people outside the political arena who do take time to research and make personal decisions regarding issues affecting the country.

Real-world learning

Although it is sometimes exhausting to be working 17 hours a week on top of a 15-hour course load, I am enjoying every minute. I feel that this internship has taught me so much in the one month I have worked there, things I could never have learned by merely taking a class.

I look forward to the semester with excitement and humility because, although it will be exhausting at times, it will be one of my best experiences.

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