About Allie: New Washington D.C. pundit Allie Van Dine is a student in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service studying international security. She is also a Massachusetts politics junkie, tea enthusiast, and strong believer in the power of the arts.
Allie's excellent memorandum to Washington entitled "Reasons You Need Your Interns" earned her a spot on our culture writing team. Allie, we're thrilled to have you join our D.C. community!
There is nothing that screams “Washington, D.C.” more than the image of a young Capitol Hill intern, perhaps fresh off the Circulator (because it’s the cheapest, most reliable way to get around, don’t argue with me), in an ill-fitting suit, looking lovingly up at the Capitol building.
A seasoned inhabitant of the District knows that this idealistic, impoverished young public servant-in-training has signed up for a semester or a summer of foraging for free food, rent and transportation costs that far outpace their nonexistent salary, and walk-running ten miles a day through the Capitol’s halls and tunnels. What do they get in exchange? A recommendation and a guarantee that no one has time to hear what they think.
Wait a sec. Really? In this period of historic Congressional gridlock, we’re ignoring the very passion, excitement, and dedication that we criticize our elected leaders for lacking?
Washington, D.C., take note: what I’m about to suggest may be radical and may shock you. I argue that you need your interns for more than just errands.
You are fortunate in that some of the smartest, most dedicated, and most passionate undergraduates in the nation have competed (Yes! Competed!) to work for YOU. I wager that many of them in your office hail from the state you actually represent, making them an even more valuable resource. They are an amazing connection between your constituents and your staff. They genuinely want to impress you and work hard for their district, their state, and their country.
It is worth your time to sit down with them once a week for half an hour—I know, I know you’re busy, but trust me, this will pay off—and just talk. Where are they from? Why did they want to intern for you? What do they like most and least about this job? Most importantly, what are their ideas? Some of them may be stupid, some may be impractical, but one or two might be brilliant.
At the end of the day, the interns that populate D.C. every semester are a rag-tag bunch of educated people with ideas for moving their country forward. The last time government invested half as much in these people willing to sacrifice, serve the public, and achieve their dreams of a more perfect union invested in it, the world’s greatest nation was born.
If there’s one thing I could change about D.C., it would be to bring back that passion that once drove it forward—and the best way to do that is to empower our interns.
For more news on Allie, follow her on Twitter: @allie_vandine