by Richard Young, 2010 APAICS Intern
I work for the third most powerful American politician in the United States House of Representatives. As a Congressional Intern for Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, I assist the Whip as he mobilizes the Democratic Party vote on important legislation, acts as a liaison between Members and the Democratic Leadership, and coordinates strategy with the Democratic Caucus. The tasks I have been given are quite daunting, but I do find satisfaction in knowing that my contributions to the office have a greater impact on the many Americans who need help. Examples of my tasks include answering phone calls, setting up the House Democratic Caucus breakfast, attending meetings, and writing memos.
Unlike my previous legislative experiences at the Ohio House of Representatives and a district office of a United States Senator, picking up phone calls at the Whip’s office is very different. Instead of receiving phone calls from angry constituents, I receive calls from Democratic Members of Congress and their staffers, White House staffers, news reporters from MSNBC, FoxNews, and CNN, and other prominent people. I have the responsibility to make sure that the line of communication runs smoothly at the office, allowing the Legislative Branch of the government to serve the American people.
The best part about the internship is setting up the House Democratic Caucus breakfast, which is held on Thursday mornings. My task is to make sure that the Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen receive a delicious breakfast while handing them legislative briefings as they enter the doors. This event is a great opportunity to meet prominent Democratic policymakers in person. I have met House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Barney Frank, Congressman Honda, and others to name a few.
I had the opportunity to attend a health care meeting in place of my Legislative Director and write a memo. It was a wonderful opportunity because health care policy is one of my top interests. I was in awe as I sat in the same room with a small, close-knit group of policymakers who helped healthcare legislation pass earlier this year.
Unlike most Congressional Interns at the personal offices of Congressmen and Congresswomen, I do not work in a personal office. I actually work in the Capitol Building. One of the nice perks of working at the Office of the Majority Whip is the fantastic window view from my primary office!
Not only is my work area next to the best view but also next to two leaders of the Civil Rights movement. First is the Whip’s office and second is the honorary office of Congressman John Lewis. Both men made sure that all Americans would receive equal justice. Another interesting fact is that in my secondary office, I happen to work right next to President Abraham Lincoln’s former office!
However, my experiences in DC go beyond the Office of the Majority Whip. Through my APAICS summer internship, it’s been great to finally meet other students who are of Asian & Pacific Islander decent who care so much about politics and issues that are affecting the Asian & Pacific Islander American community. They are the ones who have truly inspired me.
I came to DC thinking that running for office was not an option. My reasons were twofold: first, there would always be another American of Asian & Pacific Islander decent who would run for office and make America more of a descriptive democracy, and second, finishing first place was not for me. However, after talking with my fellow interns, I realized my ambition should never be second place. If more and more Asian & Pacific Islander Americans choose to be second place, they just end up becoming second class citizens. My grandfather came to America in the early 1900s facing many policies that were against him, forcing him to become a second class citizen. I want to make sure that in the future all Americans and new immigrants have equal opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Richard Young is a 2010 APAICS Summer Intern placed with the Office of the Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn. He is currently studying Political Science at Ohio State University.