Nebraska Society Internship 2003

Internship: Senator Ben Nelson

Just do it. Nike’s promotional slogan popped into my head more than a few times during my internship this summer. This occurred to me during my first few confusing days in Senator Ben Nelson’s office when answering a phone call required a situation-specific instructional flow chart. It occurred to me as I gingerly stepped through the dark and narrow basement passageways in the Capitol with a group of bright-eyed constituents following closely behind. “Just do it” meant getting the job done. This summer I had to call upon a previously unknown level of objectivity to complete some tasks, I had to find some not-so-common common sense, and I have, on more than one occasion, tapped into my energy reserves.

Ben Nelson’s staff maintains the efficiency and momentum I now recognize as necessary to operate a successful workplace on the Hill. When I came to the office, I was challenged to match this intensity in both my work ethic and attitude. Even though some of his hard-working staffers are not privileged to be native Nebraskans, they all preserve Nebraska’s unique congeniality within their personalities. My superiors were clearly appreciative to have interns and made a genuine effort to welcome us to the office.

After meeting with a few other interns around the Hill, I began to realize just how unique Ben Nelson’s intern program is. In addition to having traditional intern responsibilities, I worked within the press office. Each morning, I compiled clips from on-line news sources from across the state and across the country for office-wide distribution. I also had the opportunity to sit in the writer’s seat as I drafted various press releases. One of the highlights of my experience was the opportunity to introduce the Senator at an ‘Intern Lecture Series’ speaking engagement. While Hill interns from any office will vouch for the one-of-a-kind experience they’ve had in Washington D.C., many interns count themselves lucky to be assigned with a single research project. Some interns spend weeks in the mail room of an office without ever meeting the member or Senator for whom they work. This was certainly not the case in Ben Nelson’s office. My tasks were challenging and diverse, and the Senator even made an after-hours effort to come out to the Mall to cheer on our office softball team, “The Full Nelson.”

My experiences this summer will render me a littler sharper than when I came. When I return to school in Boston in the fall, I have a clearer post-graduate goal in sight. My perspective of the world’s goings-on continues to grow and develop as does the health of my skepticism. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned in a professional setting this summer to my studies in an academic setting. Daily, I had the privilege of working under and observing two of the most talented press secretaries on the Hill doing what they do best: work their press-secretary magic to get an honest message out to Nebraskans. I admire their tenacity and resilience and hope to take a little bit of that with me wherever I go next.

Working in Washington was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but as things have it, most glossy dreams like that never work out. Not only did this opportunity “work out” for me, but any expectations I brought with me for my experience quickly were surpassed. This internship experience went above and far beyond anything I’d heard about or expected, that is in no small part due to working in a Nebraskan’s office. I encourage anyone who is interested in people, places, diversity, and learning to apply for an internship with a congressional office-especially Senator Nelson’s office. Even if you think it’s a long shot-Just do it, you’ll be glad you did.