The wonders of Washington

Congressman Mike Kelly, Eleanor Kellett and Australian Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley
Congressman Mike Kelly, Eleanor Kellett and Australian Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley

American Studies student Eleanor Kellett reports from Capitol Hill where she is taking part in Flinders University’s Washington Internship Program.

If you told me that one day I would be walking the same halls as some of the biggest political leaders of the world I wouldn’t have believed it.

Yet, here I am today, working as an intern on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC for US Congressman, Mike Kelly, a Republican representing the third district of Pennsylvania.

Thanks to Flinders University’s exceptional Washington Internship Program, six other Flinders’ students have also been given this incredible opportunity.

Every morning I take a remarkable walk past the United States Capitol, which is tightly secured with Capitol Hill police on every corner, and walk into one of the many gorgeously detailed congressional office buildings.

I walk through security detectors every morning before I reach our office, where the peace and quiet lasts a short while before the office becomes abuzz with telephone calls, visitors, and a staff of about 10 people busily going about their work.

This is a fast paced environment but one that I can say is the greatest professional experience to encounter. I am an intern, and although that doesn’t get you very far it gets you further than what the public will see.

So this is what it looks like: you’re learning of the news at the same time as the media is reporting it, the hottest political issues are ever-changing and new relationships are constantly built and broken over policy and legislation.

Working for Representative Kelly has given me an insight into the relationships of Congress staff and their leaders. Running errands in an effort to network, I constantly find myself lost in the underground passages of the congressional buildings whilst trying to find offices of the other 434 House representatives and 100 Senators.

I was lucky enough to work in an office that put me to the test immediately, from answering the calls of Rep. Kelly’s constituents to researching issues for constituent responses and merging it with Mr Kelly’s position.

At a time where the world is watching the political tug-of-wars of Republicans vs Democrats and Congress vs the President, we enter the second session of 112th Congress. Top of the agenda is to fix the American economy, improve the health care system and put Americans back to work.

However, it is an election year.

The Florida Primaries have just finished and being in a Republican office, everyone is anxious about the coming weeks.

Everyone is watching the media and the Republican presidential candidates building cases, pleading to the people to determine who is best fit to take up the fight against the weakening support President Obama has. All while the government faces a fourth year of trillion-plus deficits in 2012. Talk on the Hill about what Republican runner is best suited is ever-changing. It is obviously a close race; however Mitt Romney has been better than his rivals in presidential debates so often.

After last year’s session when Congress fought over passing a budget, America’s AAA rating was lost and tensions were high, Congress is now working harder to get America back on track. But how far will they get in a Presidential election year where unachievable promises are made and anything contentious is left untouched.

This will be an exciting year for any politically savvy person and working on the Hill, for Mr Kelly, has given me the opportunity to see it from the front line.

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2 thoughts on “The wonders of Washington

  1. I would have expected a more reflexive analysis of the experience as an intern. Of course an intern is exposed to the politics of being Democratic or Republican. But surely a university placement should require a critical analysis of Washington politics?

    If a student is there in a personal or volunteer capacity I have no problems reading their personal political views. However, if this is part of university course I expect a critical analysis. This looks to me like a partisan expression of political views with no theoretical analysis or critical edge.

    In my view, student placements should not serve the function of repeating political views. There must be scholarly analysis.

    I hope these comments contribute to the critical debate about politics at a time when the world faces great difficulties in rtelation to peace, climate cage and equity.

    Colin MacDougall
    Southgate Institute for Health, Equity and Society
    Flinders University

  2. Very interesting recount of your time spent in Washington Eleanor. I enjoyed the subjective look into your time working under the Republican Congressman Mike Kelly and his involvement in the coming election.

    I’m not actually sure this would be an appropriate venue to provide a critical analysis of American politics and I’m glad it takes a more personal, rather than objective, insight on your trip to the American Capitol.

    Keep it up champ.

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