By | William Theriac ’16

My interest in interning with Congresswoman Betty McCollum grew out of my interest in public service and governmental work. As I learned more about politics and began taking an active role in my tiny Macalester community, I realized that the glorious feelings that accompany working within my community—that sense of completion, fulfillment, and success—could be easily combined with public service both now and later in life. Because of my emphasis on working within my own community, I wanted to work in the Congresswoman’s District office because her district encapsulates Macalester and Saint Paul. My work, no matter how tiny it is, is having a real impact on my local community while helping a national figure. My dream is to serve in Congress myself at some point, so the opportunity to peek in at the ground floor was not something I could pass up during my time at Mac.

At my internship, a lot of my work is fairly administrative: reading and recording the mail, answering phones and being that front-line of constituent service, connecting constituents to the District Officer employees who help them most. But what I think has been the most fruitful is the daily Community Clips report I prepare: I go through 16 or so local publications from Ramsey and Washington Counties and assemble all of the news stories that are relevant for the Congresswoman and every employee in the District and Washington offices to know. I get to act as this proxy link of information between the 4th district and the Congresswoman and her staff. Seeing the relationships between citizens and the Congresswoman is highly educative and instructive—knowing how national governance in the form of Congress directly touches the lives of its citizens is fascinating. The six employees in the office I work in are truly serving, and that kind of highly personal governance will serve as a reminder of just how I think government should be in the future, and my future.

Through this work, my understanding of “slow” has changed. People always talk about “red tape” and scorn “bureaucracy,” but to actually engage the federal government at this level is to commit oneself to a long undertaking that requires a lot of effort throughout the whole process. This isn’t a ball that keeps rolling down the hill, you have to nudge it constantly. This has given me a greater appreciation for those who then willingly implant themselves along that route, whose jobs are to keep the ball rolling, to keep pressing the issue and working for an outcome. I have a more realistic view of government: its structure, its relationships with citizens, the speed and capacity with which it operates, etc.

The fact that this internship is taking place during my senior year is fortuitous. The 9-5 workday is helping me prep myself for post-grad life. The insider’s view of legislative government is helping me figure out where I want to go—it’s helping me confront and consider my future dreams and aspirations. This has been a training ground for life after Mac.

April 25 2016

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