Community October 04, 2018
Senior Projects 2018 - Somehow, It Works
The U.S. Government

 

High School: Community School

Project Title: Somehow, It Works: The U.S. Government

Post-Graduation Plans: Attending the University of Washington, Seattle

 Below is a transcription of Alex LaFleur’s presentation on his experience in Rep. Delaney’s office.

On March 31, 2018, I stepped off the plane at Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. For weeks I sat in anticipation, wondering what my internship with Congressman and 2020 Presidential candidate John Delaney was going to be like. All of a sudden, my opportunity to get an inside look of the U.S. government was here.

Congressman John K. Delaney, elected to the House of Representatives in 2013, serves the 6th District of Maryland. Delaney sent his daughter Lily to Community School in 2015; he was the commencement speaker for the class of 2016; and his wife, April, serves on the Community School Board of Directors. Delaney’s ties with Community School and his passion for our Valley is how I connected with him and ultimately ended up working in his office.

When given the freedom and support from Community School to pursue an interest of mine, I chose to do something that was out of my comfort zone but still excited me. After being involved in student government, my passion for leadership grew more than I expected. So, I figured there was no better way to explore leadership than working inside the government of a world power.

LaFleur on his way to work.

After arriving in D.C., I spent the first few days getting acquainted with the city and conversing with my hosts, Deb and Neal. I marched the streets of Capitol Hill where I would be working and explored the National Mall. The city’s rich history and national pride was immediately noticeable and assured me I was in the right place.

On Monday, April 2, I jumped out of bed, excited for my first day of work. After putting on my suit and fumbling through the process of tying my tie, I hopped on my somewhat functioning bike and started pedaling. A few minutes later, I arrived outside the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. My office, where I spent the better part of the next month, was on the sixth floor.

Throughout my internship experience, there were three major facets of my duties. The first of which was administrative duties. These included answering the office phones, opening and filing email, hard mail, and faxes.

Delaney’s office phones rang regularly with constituents on the lines. Constituents are voters who live in the Congressman’s district. Usually, a caller was voicing his or her opinion on a bill and asking the Congressman to vote one way or another. For example, we had callers who would advise Delaney, in a very general sense, to vote for or against gun control. Although Delaney is a Democrat, we had people of all political affiliations calling to voice their opinions.

Sometimes, I would get a constituent caller who knew exactly what he or she was talking about. A caller might say, “Hello, I would like Representative Delaney to vote in favor of H.R. 5421, the No Lead in the Air Act of 2018.” I would then record the concern, ask for contact info, and thank the caller for calling. Then, I would take the information and enter it into a software system called Intranet Quorum, or IQ. I lived and breathed this software for three weeks because it is where all legislative information can be found. My other administrative duties included opening, reading, and logging all emails, hard mail, and faxes. As with the calls, all of this information was loaded directly into IQ.

The second portion of my job included legislative tasks, those that related to pending legislation. Occasionally, I was sent to government briefings. These briefings were about anything currently happening inside or outside the government that needed attention. Experts, both in and out of government, came into the office buildings to give these briefings.

My first briefing was about the United States mortality rates. Professors from the University of Maryland and Syracuse University came to Capitol Hill as experts in this field. My job was to take notes on everything that was said and to record the Q and A session at the end of the briefing. Then, I went back to my office and spent a couple hours writing a memo for the briefing. This memo was a summary of all the major points covered in the briefing and a written record of the Q and A session. I would then turn it into the staffer who covered the briefings’ subject matter. These briefings gave our office more information on a specific subject, so legislation could be written or voted on appropriately.

The U.S. Capitol

While in D.C., I covered two more briefings: one about a local watershed restoration project and another about an FAA reauthorization act, the first in six years. I also handled correspondence with constituents who called in about specific issues. When necessary, I wrote letters regarding popular issues or bills that constituents were concerned about.

The third and most enjoyable part of my intern duties was giving tours to constituents of the Capitol Building. After they arrived at our office, I would lead the group through security and into the Capitol Visitor Center. From there, we toured six different rooms in the Capitol Building, during which time I provided facts about the rooms for the visitors. In order to have the knowledge to give an effective tour, I attended a four-hour training session with a number of other interns and Capitol Building staff.

My experience working for Congressman Delaney on Capitol Hill was unforgettable. I learned more than I could have imagined and left with a new appreciation for our governing body. I must thank Congressman Delaney for supplying me with a position in his office. Thank you to Community School for providing its students with such freedom. Finally, thank you to my parents, Peter and Julie, for their relentless support and trust.

This article appears in the Fall 2018 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.