Over the summer I interned in Senator Barber Boxer’s Los Angeles office. I wanted an internship in government to see if that was a field I wanted to pursue. I applied online and came in for an interview. A week later I received a call telling me I got the internship!
I wasn’t sure what would be expected of me. Since I’ve never worked for a Senator before I wasn’t sure if I would be viewing confidential documents, having interesting political discussions, or just answering phones. It turned out to be a combination of all those things with a few more obligations as well. The most educational of those experiences was answering the phone. Since Senator Boxer is a public official, her phone number is online and anyone can call in to tell us his or her opinion on current events or legislation. And trust me, we got a lot of calls! Most people were very polite and wanted the senator to vote a certain way on legislation or needed to express their feelings on how she’d voted in the past. While occasionally people would call and yell to express their anger, it was important to remember that they weren’t attacking you personally. They’re upset over what they perceive to be a mishandling of the political system. That was one of the most important lessons I took away from my internship: don’t take anger personally.
When President Obama called on Americans to contact their representatives over the debt ceiling crisis we were absolutely swamped with calls. There were so many calls we had to recruit the field representatives and aids to help us answer them all. Later estimates showed that government officials received almost as many calls on the debt crisis as on health care which, as I’m sure many of you are aware, was and still is a hotly contested issue.
A typical day started by reviewing emails and current events in case anyone called requesting Senator Boxer’s position on a specific topict. Then I would start on the greets. Greets are letters that the Senator sends out to congratulate people on milestones, such as anniversaries, retirement, significant birthdays, or becoming an Eagle Scout. Each of these has to be carefully written following specific protocol since they represent the Senator. We get dozens of greet requests a day so those took up a large amount of my time. When the mail came I would sort and file the requests depending on the topic and fax anything that needed to go to another office. In between all of this I would field phone calls and help any constituents that came into the office.
My time at Senator Boxer’s office was an amazing learning experience. I got to see how our political system works from the inside and hopefully helped a few people along the way. Everyone in the office was incredibly kind, supportive, and always there to lend a hand. While I’m not positive I want to go into public service, I’m glad for the experience gained working in Senator Boxer’s office.
[Alessandra is a junior Political Communications major and a contributing writer to our Department blog. – Sandy]