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Interning

EXECUTIVE UPDATE  August 2001
By Fred H. Hutchison

Editorís Note: To provide perspective on the authorís experience on Capitol Hill, Executive Update has reprinted the following article written in 1974, when the author was a Senate intern. Reprinted with permission from The Tech, August 2, 1974.

WASHINGTON, May 30, 1974: Today I got my first informal glimpse of the Senator. He came into my corner of the newsletter-strewn portion of the office known affectionately as "the back room," fondled the leaves on the plant sitting on my bookcase, and brushed off my stare by saying that he had to make sure that there were no artificial plants in his office.

June 3: Today I got my first informal glimpse of: the place the Senator parks his car, the package wrapping room (Jack the Wrapper), the place the Senator sends us to cash his checks, our firetrap of a locker in the attic, the place the Senatorís personal secretary tells us the Senator wants his clothes taken to (the Baths), the place they keep the buttons from the Ď68 campaign, the place we go to get the Senatorís lunchÖ

June 5: I solo as a tour guide. I get a group of 4-Híers (future farmers/homemakers). I lead a tour through the Capitol, Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. I have never been inside the Library of Congress or the Supreme Court. I have a contest with John from our office to see who can make up the most facts. He wins. Heís had an extra year to practice.

June 11: Found the following while doing research on the voting records of one of the Republican members of our delegation: "S. 1888, Farm Program Extension, Rep. Poage motion to order the previous question on his pending motion to agree to the Senate Amendment to the House Amendments to the Senate version of the House bill with an amendment to urge American farmers to produce to their full capabilities."

June 14: The intern makes the mistake of telling the press secretary that he has offset paste-up experience. The press secretary grins and hands the intern a Congressional Record reprint to do. The intern slices the end of his finger with the x-acto knife. The intern thinks this is just like college. The intern does not bleed on the copy.

June 19: The following short letter crossed my desk: "Dear Senator, would you please send me a glossy picture of yourself, autographed with your REAL signature. If this is not available, a file card with your REAL signature. Your effort in providing me with your REAL signature is appreciated." I signed the photo on the signature machine.

June 24: Tangled in Red Tape, Episode 17, in which our hero comes of age: I received a letter from a police department in a small city in our state requesting two American flags from our stationery room. I find enclosed a city claim, but no check. I canít decipher the city claim. I call the police department and tell them: "No check, no flags." The person I talk to tells me the city cannot issue a check until I send them a receipt saying I purchased the two flags and sign the city claim. I cannot get a receipt unless I buy the flags. I break down and charge the flags to our account and ask for a receipt. They tell me that this was a charge purchase. I canít get the receipt until the end of the month. I resign.

June 28: I was handed a letter today from a very spunky 86-year-old lady in a rest home. Although confined to bed, she says that when she gets better sheís going to homestead and prospect for gold. She wants copies of the relevant statutes and also says to please call her by her maiden name. I hope Iím half that ambitious when Iím 86Ö

July 3: I was told to remove the campaign button that I was wearing. When I asked why, I was told that the Senator feels that he serves every citizen of the state, regardless of whether they support him or not.

July 9: See the intern step into the elevator. See the intern eye the shapely elevator operator. The intern does not notice the SENATOR who is also in the elevator. The intern announces that he would like "floor two, please." The Senator says that it will be all right to stop at two "this time." The intern does not lose his cool. See the intern walk into the wall.

July 11: I sat in on a committee hearing the Senator was chairing. When the hearing recessed for a roll call vote, I stepped out into the hall. I walked with the Senator as he made his way toward the elevator. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked: "Do they have you doing anything besides answering mail and giving tours?"

July 12: Today I nervously handed the Senator a speech I had written for him to give on the Senate floor. He sat down, read it through, and said, "Itís a rare occasion when I donít have to change a single word in a speech." See the intern walk into the wall.

July 16: The legislative assistant who was handling all the energy, transportation, and communications legislation left to go work on the Senatorís reelection campaign. I asked for and was given responsibility over energy-related matters.

July 17: Today I scanned several reports on gasoline allocation, spent the afternoon trying to answer 13 energy-related letters, and resigned again at 5:27 p.m.

Authorís Postscript: Actually, I stuck it out until August 9, 1974, the day after President Nixon announced his resignation. As I was walking to work that day, I got stopped for jaywalking. When I tried to protest, the young police officer (he was about three years older than me) asked, "Did you see Nixonís speech last night?" When I nodded affirmatively, he continued, "There is only one set of laws in America... one set for those on the top and those on the bottom. Youíre on the bottom, so take the ticket." How could I argue with logic like that?

 

  © 2008 Fred H. Hutchison. All Rights Reserved.

Edited on: May 19, 2006