As a Congressional Aide, Girl Scout Katharine T. spent a week shadowing on Capitol Hill. Madeleine writes about her experience below.
I walked out of the elevator and into the hall, counting the room numbers as I went. I found the right office, took a deep breath, and knocked.
“Hi. I’m Katharine, and I’m supposed to be working in this office through a program in Girl Scouts this week.”
Back in February when I applied to the Girl Scouts Congressional Aide program, a program that allows high school age Girl Scouts living in the Greater Washington Region to shadow in a Congressional office for a week, I did not know what to expect. In early June, when I attended orientation, I felt a little better.
Looking back, I know that the experience was nothing short of incredible and I am so grateful for the opportunity. As I answered phones, sorted mail, and walked through the maze of tunnels crisscrossing beneath the House, Capitol, and Senate buildings, I slowly learned about the complex legislative system and saw democracy in action.
I realized that the concerns come from the ground up. I read letters coming from all over the Congressman’s district and all over the United States, relaying worries on many topics, from gun control to GMO labeling of foods. As I sorted mail and talked to concerned constituents, I became aware of people’s views. I agreed with some views and disagreed with the views of others. I answered with the same respectful “ma’am” or “sir” each time, knowing that each person who called or wrote was trying to do their part to influence policy decisions.
I learned that policy makers listen. As I attended hearings, meetings, and briefings, I discovered how Congressman and staffers work to balance a variety of different ideas and concerns on many different topics. As they reach compromises, they work together to put resolutions into writing.
On Friday at 5 pm, I sat with the other interns, folding and stuffing several hundred letters to constituents, telling people how the Congressman had voted on a certain issue.
In one short week, I was able to glimpse the legislative process from start to completion: an intricate relationship between people and representative—people bring issues to the table, policymakers act and later inform constituents of the legislature passed, people listen and send their feedback to Washington.
And even though my week is over, I know that on Monday the phones will be ringing and somebody will pick up, saying “This is the Congressman’s office, how may I help you?”
After all, it is the government’s job to advocate for the people.