Friday, June 16, 2017

A Cane and a Gun

One of the most important responsibilities for interns in Congressional offices is to provide personal tours of the United States Capitol to constituents visiting Washington. The tour route begins in the Crypt, weaves through the Old Supreme Court Chamber, and then visits the venerated Rotunda, with its impressive paintings of early American history and larger-than-life statues of larger-than-life leaders such as Reagan, Lincoln, King Jr., and Washington.

After the rotunda, the tour moves into the Old Senate Chamber. From 1810-1859, during the “Golden Age of the Senate”, the nation’s upper legislative body debated issues ranging from westward expansion to slavery in this hallowed hall.

While each Hill intern has his or her own signature style and approach to giving a Capitol tour, almost every single intern-turned-tour guide will tell the same story before entering the Old Senate Chamber: in May 1856, a staunchly anti-slavery Senator, Charles Sumner, had just finished giving a two-day long speech on the Senate floor, decrying the evils of slavery and calling into question the morality of anyone who supported the institution. A certain Representative from South Carolina, Preston Brooks, took exception to Sumner’s words, and decided to march across the capitol building, into the Senate Chamber, and brutally beat Sumner over the head with a cane as retaliation for his words.

The United States Senate website describes the state of the nation at the time of Brooks’ bloody attack on Sumner as “suffering from a breakdown of reasoned discourse that this event symbolized.” Rather than relying on debate to resolve our nation’s most pressing public policy issues, men resorted to barbaric acts of violence, and eventually war, to settle their problems.

On June 14, 2017, a man approached a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon, intending to kill as many of the Republican lawmakers assembled there as possible. While we cannot be truly sure of his motives, an examination of his actions leading up to this event indicate that his political disagreements with the lawmakers on the field, along with some level of mental instability, combined to cause his violent outburst.

Almost immediately after Wednesday’s attack, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle displayed refreshing cooperation in condemning the attack and calling for a reduction in the incendiary political rhetoric that has become commonplace in our society.

While I would like to believe that America today is a long way away from the “breakdown of reasoned discourse” that caused a man to assault another on the floor of the Senate, I believe that the events of this week should serve as a valuable reminder of the necessity of respectful dialogue in our current political climate, and that no matter how divisive the issue, there must always be an opportunity for peaceful resolution.  

By: Drew Cooper

Internship Placements: Trust Katy

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a future WAIPer scrolling through the blog posts looking for advice, just as I did a few months ago. While in a sense I’m attempting to give you advice, I know that you will worry about your internship placements anyways; but hopefully this will demonstrate an example of a success story.  
Let me start off by saying that Katy Hogan is such an amazing program coordinator. She helped each of us secure our internships and guided us through the process, which differed between each person. As a dual-degree in Public Affairs and International Studies, I was leaning towards a nonprofit that had an international development aspect to it. While I ended up in the nonprofit sector, international development was not the route I took.
Connections are probably the most important aspect to live in DC, and Katy has a lot of them. After we had accepted our placement in the WAIP Program, she immediately sent out a list of internship sites that wanted John Glenn Fellows. She instructed us to respond with any that interested us, even in the slightest. One jumped out at me, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. While the internship did not directly align with what (I thought) I wanted to do, I figured I would at least let Katy give them my resume and see what happened.
Fast forward a few weeks, I secured an interview. They offered me the position at the end of the call and gave me 24 hours to decide. This was a problem for many reasons. One, 24 hours did not seem like enough time to determine what I wanted to do for the summer. Two, it was the day before many of my other internship applications were due, making me more nervous about the possibility of an early decision. Three, it also happened to be spring break, so talking to my mom and Katy about the offer proved to be difficult. However, Katy responded in a heartbeat, like always, and told me that as long as I was excited and had a good gut feeling, that I should accept the offer.
Despite the fact that it was not where I originally expected to be interning, I accepted the position and looking back, I couldn’t be happier that I did. Although there were downs during the first month of my internship, there were an infinite amount of ups, and Katy was there for me through them all.
Overall, trust the system and use Katy as a resource.
Good Luck!
Sharon Glenn
“D.C. moves fast.”

You’ll hear this phrase a lot. You’ll hear it before you leave for D.C., and you’ll still hear it after you’ve settled in (mostly from Katy). It’s repeated so often because it’s true and important. You’ll discover it the hard way when you’re applying for internships and need to follow up within 24 hours. You’ll witness it when you attempt to get on the Metro during rush hour #yikes. You’ll see it in the ever-changing news cycle in a city that thrives off “what’s next.” You’ll learn it when setting up coffee dates and during the first week of your internship. It’ll sink in when you find out your paper rough draft is due in two days and you’ve managed to type a total of… 5 sentences. And, although I haven’t gotten there yet, I’m sure it will be on my mind throughout my last week in D.C.

“D.C. moves fast.”

So do I. At school, I’m the person that’s always busy. Trying (and sometimes failing) to manage a full class load, part-time job, half a dozen extracurricular organizations, good grades, a social life, and getting enough sleep at night keeps me going on all four wheels. I enjoy being busy and having something to occupy my time, so I knew that D.C. would be no different. I go to my internship, work out, study, go to class, explore the city, volunteer, and attend tours and policy salons. Some days I feel as though there isn’t enough time to do everything that I want to do, and I know that when I leave here in August there will still be things on my bucket list that have yet to be crossed off.

“D.C. moves fast.”

Slow it down. This is the most important lesson that I have learned in my time here so far. It’s probably just as much a process of learning to adapt to the city as it is a good change of pace in my usually overloaded routine. I am learning to appreciate the “now,” soaking up singular moments and standing still while D.C. continues to move around me. I thought that I would give a few pieces of advice for how I do this:

-Take a walk. D.C. has the most beautiful golden hour, so take advantage. Head straight down Constitution Ave. and walk along the mall. I’ll often attempt to go on a run only to find myself walking instead because I get so distracted by all the interesting people and things.
-Go it alone. You are always surrounded by people in D.C. The first few weeks may be focused on getting to know your cohort, but I believe there’s a lot of value in figuring things out by yourself too. Go out to eat, to a concert, or to a museum by yourself and see how your perspective changes.
-Drink your coffee (or tea). Actually drink it- as in wake up a few minutes earlier and breathe in the freshly brewed smell, take care in pouring the exact right amount of creamer, and let it warm your hands for a second before you step out into the humidity.
-Keep your journal. This is another thing that you will undoubtedly hear a lot, but there will be countless things that you will wish you remembered years from now. The only way to actually remember them is to write them down.
-Splurge a little. I’m not one to spend a lot of money, but sometimes the little things make the memory. Buy the book you’ve been eyeing at Capitol Hill Books, buy a popsicle from the food truck on the mall, buy the cliché souvenir from the gift shop. Definitely DO NOT buy the “I <3 D.C.” bucket hats that all the eighth graders are wearing, though. Hard pass.
-Have a meaningful conversation. The people in your cohort are not only fellow Buckeyes and fellow John Glenn students, but they are also going through the same transition of moving to a different city and starting a new job as you are. And because they are Buckeyes and John Glenn students, I can say with absolute confidence that they are intelligent, passionate, and kind. Try to break up the monotony of ordinary conversation by talking to new people about new things every day.

I’ve tried to take advantage of my time here and slow down some of the moments that D.C. rushes through. Slow or fast, I know that I will enjoy all of the moments I have and will spend here.

Swamp Attack

The gray sky contrasted with the full, healthy green of the swamp and complemented the compressing air. The leaves of the lilies jutted out of the murk as if they were spikes distributed over the pond, passively defending their turf.

Breathing in one woman felt as if the tiny white nats were filling her lungs as she saw them coat each plant. The stench of rotting plants twisted over the the murk and unknown of gray, muddy water moving and expanding, contributing to this surreal and unearthly place. Yet this pond was the epitome of diversity and biology and what it means to be alive and surrounded by growth and decay.

The women moved chest-deep through the alien plants, sludging into unknown objects with their boots, hoping that a hidden turtle wasn’t readying to snap.  

The four women migrated towards a small patch of lilies that was cut off from the pack, their movement through the mud sporadic and laboring. One woman crouched in the water, testing the area for the root of the closest leaves. She felt the bumpy, slimy arm of a root and motioned for the other three. Readying for the battle, they strategically placed themselves around the root. All grasped hold of the spreading tendrils of the invader and pulled. Their boots sunk into the mud as the force of their collective efforts failed to budge the plant. Coated in mud and sweat, their muscles flexed and strained, willing the formidable mass consuming the pond to move. Their legs worn from the hours spent trudging through the muck, they fought against the invader, heaving and grunting.

All four women locked eyes.

And one stood up, blinking hard with shock running across her brown eyes, her brown curls bouncing from the movement and a chuckle starting from her lips. The short-hair brunette, doubled over with a giggle that shattered the focus of the battle and the peace of the earthly sanctuary. Capped in a red, and now muddy, hat, one woman peered inquisitively at the one who towered over them, rolling her piercing eyes and lips spreading into a sweet grin. The last woman, rolling into the water, quickly glancing at all three and joining in with a shrieking and glorious laughter.

Silver light flooded over the women as they roared with laughter, their muscles cleansed by the oxygen of breathe.

Exhaling, the women returned to their task, not caring about the end result.

Hi. So I realize that a narrative probably isn't what was being sought after. But in my defense, I really think I captured the intensity of DC (okay, ya gotta really read into it) and the random weird shit that people/we have found ourselves doing in the past couple of weeks. To be honest, I can't believe how amazing my life is right now. If someone were to tell me when I graduated from highschool that 3 years from then I'd be in a swamp pulling lilies with amazing women (and people) next to me in DC while I'm interning at the Peace Corps, I probably would have believed you. LOL but the journey to getting to this point and becoming the person that I am today is something that I NEVER would have predicted. It's been hard getting here. It's been hard BEING here. And there are some people that I wish were still alive to see what I'm doing now and where I'm gonna go. So please just enjoy the ~ weirdness ~ of this blog post and appreciate how random and intense and crazy and amazing life can be. Cause that's what I've been feeling all day.

And also the Kenilworth service project was amazing.

~~Clare Rigney

If you're looking for a sign, this is it

Last February, I followed the rest of my WAIP cohort out of Page Hall after our first orientation session for the program. From the faces of the strangers around me, it was clear that everyone was consumed by fantasies of the dream internships, exciting adventures and the incredible connections they would be making next summer. I, on the other hand, had one thing burned into my mind: the price tag.

In the months leading up to the program, I went back and forth with myself about whether a summer in D.C. was possible. Somehow, reminding myself that it was an incredible opportunity still didn't outweigh the cost of unpaid work, pricey rent and the expense of East Coast city life. Despite almost dialing up Katy and calling it quits, some stern convincing from my mother sent me to Constitution Ave to join the rest of my classmates for a summer in the capitol.

Now a month in, with something new happening every week, I still say the same thing to my mother every time she calls: I can't believe I almost didn't come. From the minute I landed in DC, I understood what an extraordinary experience I was undertaking. The heart of American politics, D.C. has an expansive professional network and proximity to most major organizations that give students countless opportunities to profit from. Not only that, but the WAIP program itself offers unparalleled resources, events and connections for students that add a second dimension to your experience.

For the faint-hearted future WAIPers: if you need some persuading, consider this a sign. This city has taught me that everything in life is an opportunity, but there are few that will satisfy and propel and impassion and better you. Take a chance on yourself and on one of the most transformational, exceptional, gratifying experiences of your life. 

Lauren McDermott