Flinders University’s internship program in Washington DC provides invaluable insights into the working of Congress and could produce another great social and political commentator, according to the new US Ambassador to Australia, Mr Jeff Bleich.
On his first official visit to South Australia as Ambassador, Mr Bleich was briefed by a group of Flinders students who had recently returned from Washington where they had worked for various members of Congress. The tasks undertaken by the interns ranged from filing and phone calls to attending Congressional committee hearings, drafting briefs for legislation and dealing with constituents.
A Washington insider with White House experience in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations, Mr Bleich said Flinders’ internship program provided an invaluable opportunity to exchange information and ideas and contribute to the long term strength of the US-Australia Alliance.
“Flinders’ study program is extraordinary and learning about the direct access that these interns had to high level political leaders in Congress, and they things they got to work on, was breath-taking,” Mr Bleich said.
“When you add to that the fact that the interns are writing studies and reports on the issues of great interest to the United States and one of these students could be the next Alexis de Tocqueville (a nineteenth century French philosopher who wrote a seminal work on American democracy) who takes a keen observing eye to the United States and discovers what is great about it and what needs to be improved,” he said.
“It is especially important for young people to be engaged with the United States. Every generation determines for itself the value of the US-Australia Alliance and where the Alliance will go. People in their 40s and 50s have already discovered the benefits and substance of our relationship but for it to renew, to continue to be strong, it is going to take this active engagement and commitment by young people.”
Mr Bleich is looking forward to working with, and learning from, Australians in his new role – “Australians have a very interesting perspective and a fun approach to work which is, ‘we are in this together, let’s all proceed to solve a problem, and then go out and have a beer’.”