Building a Network in the Capital

Ben Saxton interned with Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller in Summer 2021. In addition to his internship work in the office, he had many opportunities to explore the capital and attend networking and professional events 

This summer, I worked as an intern in the Washington D.C. office of Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller. Something I have noticed about the intern experience on capitol hill is that the time outside the office is just as if not more important than the time inside the office. Inside the office, my tasks include compiling daily news clips for the Congresswoman, researching legislation, taking notes on hearings, answering constituent phone calls and sorting mail. This work has been beneficial by allowing me to develop my communication and research skills. However, while this work has been important, my time outside of the office not working, but experiencing, has been most memorable. Examples of these out-of-office experiences include observing press conferences, attending congressional intern lectures, and most of all, meeting people. These experiences have caused me to grow intellectually and socially by hearing different perspectives from our nation’s most prominent leaders as well as connecting and interacting with a driven group of interns from all over the country.One memorable lecture was one given by Representative Dan Crenshaw from Texas. As a former Navy Seal and Harvard graduate, Crenshaw had some interesting perspectives and inspiring messages. Crenshaw expressed that people in America have a tendency to be soft these days because we have it so good. Hardship does not necessarily equal injustice, which is why it is important for everyone to pursue “good hardship” in their life by voluntarily accepting a challenge. Another interesting perspective Crenshaw gave was when he explained how it frustrates him when people complain that congress does not just “get things done.” Crenshaw responds to this often-said complaint by retorting that it is supposed to be hard for congress to get things done because it should be hard to pass legislation at the highest level of government that affects the whole country. Some other lectures that I found interesting included Joe Manchin, Chris Murphy, and Rand Paul. It was interesting to hear from Republicans and Democrats about their vision for this country as well as their political philosophies.

As aforementioned, meeting interesting people has also been a major highlight of my DC experience. One interesting person I met was someone from Afghanistan who moved to Michigan at the age of 16 due to his music skills with the trumpet. We had a fascinating and eye-opening discussion regarding the current events in Afghanistan and he explained what it was like to live there. It was also great living with a total of 8 roommates over the course of the summer. My roommates were from Alabama, New Mexico, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi. We had such a fun time exploring the city together and making memories. It was also interesting to meet people of all different backgrounds and witness how our diverse backgrounds and experiences meshed well into a fun and educational environment.

Overall, my experience in DC is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Even if I do not end up working in politics, this internship will still serve as a valuable experience that sharpened valuable skills and allowed me to form meaningful connections.