Nebraska Society Internship 2005

Internship: Senator Chuck Hagel

Prior to this summer, I had never spent my balmy vacation months indoors. For that matter, I had never spent a summer in a city, much less hiking to work in suits and high heels. Although my summer spent as an intern for Senator Chuck Hagel was a stark contrast to my previous summers of roughing it, it proved to be very educational. Simply walking the historic halls of the Russell Office building and seeing politicians I had previously only caught glimpses of on CNN was thrilling. My knowledge of current political events increased dramatically through speakers, hearings, meetings, and a constant inundation of C-Span and CNN.

Senator Hagel’s staff taught me a lot about leadership styles and professionalism. Though at first I was overwhelmed by the amount of rules, instructions, and names I was asked to remember, I soon became appreciative of the high work ethic characterized by the Hagel staff. Senator Hagel himself proved to be a hardworking man of integrity who truly cares about making clear and well-grounded decisions. I was surprisingly pleased by the number of female and minority interns in his office and by the fact that the Senator took time each week to meet with us and answer our questions. Whether my future takes me inside or outside of the Beltway, I only hope that I can work in an environment that values excellence to the same degree as I experienced in the Hagel office.

Beside my time spent with Senator Hagel and his staff, I learned a lot about American politics through my interaction with the constituents. It was answering phones, logging in mail, and giving tours of the capitol that truly opened my eyes and heart to the concerns of the average American. These were the conversations that took me away from the air-conditioned office filled with accomplished people to the pains and concerns of the average Nebraskan.

The heartsick mother whose son had just died from AIDs, the proud father whose daughter is fighting in Iraq, and the elderly veteran who was not receiving payments for his hospital bills each begged me to pass on his or her messages. These individuals simply hoped that someone in a position of authority would step up and make a change in the problems they saw in our state, country, and world. Often their frustration was apparent through sarcasm and rudeness, but I learned to listen carefully for encouraging words of thanks directed toward the Senator, his staff, or even myself for listening on the phone. One day after almost six straight hours of listening to angry constituents on the phones, a man actually called back to apologize for being so rude to me. It was small moments like these that made and others that made me proud to have been a little part of the political process this summer, even if that just meant saying, “Yes sir, I will pass on your concerns.”