It has been three weeks since I’ve started my internship at the US House of Representatives. What is the recipe for success? Coffee and news, news, news, and more news. Also, enough storage space on your phone for all the podcasts that analyze everything that has happened in the past weeks, from the Supreme Court nomination to the ‘new NAFTA’ or USMCA.
The range of my responsibilities has throughout these three weeks exponentially grown from getting to know my way around the buildings on the first day to being an important part of the office—not only in terms of legislative research but also constituent relations—as I am writing this post. As you might already know the US House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the US congress. Its members, elected directly by the people, are representatives of congressional districts that are apportioned among the states according to their population.
Constituent relations and communication is therefore crucial. One way I take part in this is leading Capitol Hill tours that are offered to the constituents directly by their representative’s office. I welcome them at the office and then take them on a two-hour long journey, where I explain the story behind the Capitol Hill and show them beautiful places such as the Rotunda. By now, I have done this tour several times, but the inner side of the Dome never ceases to amaze me.
Leading these tours has been educational in two ways. Firstly, the Capitol is a fascinating building rich in terms of history and architecture. You learn about the first Supreme Court Chamber where historical decisions like Dred Scott v. Sandford were made. You see the original Senate and House Chamber, where people like John Quincy Adams worked. You get to see how the building itself was growing and adapting to the development of the US as country. In addition, you also learn fun facts, such as that Samuel Morse sent the first telegram from the Capitol to Baltimore.
Secondly, it gives me an intricate look into US political culture. This is not only in terms of meeting constituents, listening to their opinions about current domestic affairs and, yes, confirming that I do come from the same country as the First Lady. It also gives me the opportunity to observe their fascination and sense of pride while they walk around the Capitol building. There, all the partisan politics seem to fade away, as people are just overwhelmed by all the history and symbolism of the building that is such a central part of their American identity.
For some such a task might be dull and repetitive work—having to always tell the same story or explain the same painting. For me it turned out to be a great opportunity to better understand the American identity.