TJSL Student’s Capitol Hill Internship Includes Meeting with the President
By Jim Crane, 3L
This past summer I had the privilege to work on Capitol Hill as a legal intern for Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington State. I obtained this internship opportunity through AAPD, America Association for People with Disabilities. www.aapd.com. I was extremely fortunate to be one of the select few hired this past summer to serve as a Congressional intern in our nation’s capital. It was truly an honor to do so, and I had the experience of a lifetime.
One of Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers’s areas of focus and expertise is disability related issues. She is currently the Republican Leader of the Disability Caucus for the House. For most of the summer, I concentrated my efforts on issues related to the various disability laws, such as the ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008), Reauthorizing of Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, like me, is very passionate about improving the lives of people with disabilities in employment, education, and healthcare. Though I thought I had a decent working knowledge of the disability related laws, I was surprised to discover I still had a lot to learn about my own laws, (if you get me). My time on Capitol Hill taught me just how much work remains to be done in this area of the law.
In addition to reviewing disability related laws and writing briefs and one-pagers for the Congresswoman, I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to attend numerous hearings, testimonies and mark-up meetings. Through those experiences, I gained a better understanding of how our government operates. I was also able to see firsthand how the complexities and politics of the legislative process can sometimes lead to dysfunction and delay. Good, bad or indifferent, the one thing I learned for certain is the entire legislative process is fascinating!
Finally, the highlight of my summer was meeting President Obama. This was not just a casual meet and greet event. I literally met with and spoke to the President about matters concerning those with disabilities! Long story short, I was one of just a few interns invited to a roundtable meeting with President Obama, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecila Munoz in the Roosevelt room of the White House. Due to scheduling constraints, the President only had time to hear from a few of us, and I was selected to be one of the speakers. Sitting four feet directly across from the President of the United States is an awe-inspiring event to be sure! I told him about the three issues that those of us in the disability community believe the President and our government must focus on in order to improve the lives of people with disabilities, which are employment, universal design and education. The President listened intently and then complimented us by saying we were the future leaders who would have a profound impact on the disability community. Needless to say, this once in a lifetime opportunity was definitely humbling for me.
Overall, working in Washington, D.C., this past summer was an amazing experience for me. It was good being back in the city where I had lived for six years prior to law school and good seeing old faces and meeting new people. D.C. is one of the most vibrant cities you will find, with an endless list of events to attend and activities to entertain you. If you ever get the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill in the future, I highly recommend you grab the chance to do so! You never know, you might be lucky enough to meet the President of the United States.