Unforgettable Moments from a Congressional Internship
By Jillian Hines '20
Washington, D.C., felt like another country when I first visited as an 8-year-old Montanan. If you would have told me then that I would end up working in the United States Capitol and living in the city, I would have never believed it. Yet, 13 years later, I am doing just that. As a Whitworth political science and international studies double major, I have always been drawn to the work of our nation's capital. It is where the greatest exchanges of power, ideas and conflicts occur. When I was given the opportunity to live and work in Washington, D.C., for a semester through the American Studies Program in fall 2019, I jumped at the chance. Through this program, I spent my days on "The Hill" (as everyone in D.C. calls it) as a congressional intern, and I experienced some of the most profound moments of my life – both academically and personally.
United States Rep. Elijah Cummings' Death
Elijah Cummings was a name often mentioned on the Hill. A sharecropper's son who rose to become a civil rights champion and a powerful committee chairperson, he was often referred to as the House's "Northern Star." His passing was incredibly hard to hear about, but his work will forever be remembered in Congress. Representative Cummings worked to do what he thought was right up until the very end of his life. Pushing past prejudice, discomfort, threats and shortcomings, he fought for justice, peace and the inclusion of all people. Lying in state in the U.S. Capitol is an honor bestowed upon only the most distinguished citizens. Elijah Cummings was the first African American to receive this honor, and he richly deserved such recognition. I was honored to pay my respects to him the day his casket was in the Capitol. It was incredible to see members of congressional offices, as well as thousands of citizens, swarm to see him one last time. People from all walks of life were affected by his work; I am sure it would have brought him great joy to see all of these people come together to honor his legacy.
Impeachment Trial and Process
Not many Hill interns can say they worked in Congress while the sitting president was impeached. This represents the checks and balances that hold our democracy together. When the impeachment hearings began, our staff closely monitored the proceedings – something all congressional offices were doing that morning. As it progressed, we listened to testimonies, public announcements and news coverage of the proceedings. I remember our staff assistant telling me to remember moments like these because of their significance in our country's history. Each new witness and document sent a ripple effect throughout the Hill. A new hearing would start, and after 20 minutes our phones would ring for the rest of the day with constituents voicing their opinion. Our system of government, though imperfect, is a privilege. Having a firsthand view of the impeachment process made me grateful for that system, and equally grateful to have a window into the process.