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Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs

“When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn’t for you. It’s for the Presidency.”

Harry S. Truman
33rd President of the United States

Internships

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Truman Center Interns Report Archives

Summer 2015

Ida Ayalew
DC Internship Essay

Each Monday, as I would study for my GRE, after work, at the Library of Congress, I would think about the great minds who had sat in the same place before me. This realization made me understand that with the combination of hard work and preparation, anything is possible. The Truman Bootstrap Scholarship was my opportunity to understand how the path to social advocacy comes in different forms.

This program has greatly influenced me to continue my role in social engagement. I had the honor and privilege to represent the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) student body as a congressional intern. During my time in the Congressional office of Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, I had the opportunity to meet some of my greatest heroes; Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King III, Senator McCaskill, and so much more. The interactions I had with many of these leaders made me realize that leadership is much more than a title. It means going after your convictions, even if others tell you “No”.

During my time in the House of Representatives, I was able to understand the different roles that government plays, and how I play a role as a citizen and intern. My day’s ranged from answering phone calls, organizing shelves, making copies, drafting research, and creating community presentations. I worked closely with Congressman Cleaver in order to create a proposal for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As I worked with the Congressman and the other interns, I learned how European-Americans are actually the largest recipients of subsided government programs. Due to a multitude of different reasons, our media exploits the needs of people of color on government assistance, but fails to mention the true need rural communities also require. This project was one of the most important assignments I was given while in Washington D.C. The research I was able to compile challenged the social norms associated with rural development and the normal stigma associated with rural Americans. Rural America plays such an important role to the US economy and our lives.

After my return from Washington D.C., I was able to attend a meeting with rural community members from across Missouri’s fifth district. It was unbelievable to see how the fruits of our labor came to life. Not only was I able to contribute to the conservations in the office as a growing scholar, but I was also able to contribute as a constituent of the fifth district to better understand the needs of all people.

Summer 2015 has been one of the most life-changing experiences. Participating in the Truman Bootstrap Scholarship Program was an unforgettable and humbling experience. I know I would not have not been able to intern in Washington D.C. without the generous support of UMKC and the Truman Center. The support I received from Dr. Vonnahme, Dr. Neuman and Ms. Curtis can never be repaid. /p>

I give my sincerest thanks to this program because without them, I would have been ungrounded.

Thank you UMKC and Truman Center!

Ramsey Fowler
Experience Essay

The Truman Bootstrap Award helped me get one step closer to achieving my American Dream. Coming from a single-parent household, interning in our nation’s capital, in the expensive city of Washington, DC, appeared unrealistic. The Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs covered the financial burden of a summer internship in the U.S. Capitol, and for this, I am eternally indebted.

As a student of politics, it was exhilarating to be in the center of the action. I was on the steps of the Supreme Court when the landmark gay marriage ruling was announced; I sat ten feet behind Secretary of State John Kerry when he testified in the Senate about the Iran Deal, chatted with Congressman Paul Ryan, and toured the White House while getting to meet President Obama’s dog, Bo. I sought to make the most out of every day that I had the privilege of being in Washington. During my two months away, I worked for the Honorable Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, who proudly represents Missouri’s third district. I assisted constituents on the phone, gave in-depth tours of the Capitol building, ran documents to the cloakroom, and worked on various projects for staff members. The fast-paced environment on the Hill was electrifying and I always enjoyed keeping an eye out for members of congress passing through the halls. In one instance, I accidentally got on the ‘members only’ elevator and a Congressman from Texas showed me pictures of a new mansion that he recently purchased, which I found comical. Essentially, there was no “typical workday.”

Prior to arriving, I created a “Washington, D.C. bucket list,” and I accomplished everything that I desired. On the weekends, I explored the various Smithsonian Museums, gazed upon the captivating monuments, visited historic sites like Ford’s Theatre, and ate at local hotspots, such as We the Pizza and Founding Farmers. I made friends from various states and universities and intend to keep in touch for many years to come. We somehow worked up the courage to go skydiving in Virginia, witnessed the magnificent firework display from the National Mall on the Fourth of July, and traveled by train to Baltimore to explore the beautiful city.

Never in my life have two months flown by this fast. As I look back at all of the memories, firsthand political education, and life experiences, I will never be able to put into words how thankful I am for all that the Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs has done for me and my future. My experience is a testament to the principle, that in America, anyone can get ahead if you work hard enough, regardless of one’s background. I am more confident than ever that my calling in life is to be a public servant and pursue a career in the field of politics.

Summer 2014

Tawar Khalandi
Reflection Essay

“Elevator, miss?”

“Yes, please.”

“What floor?”

“Third, please,” I replied as the gentleman holding the elevator door open pressed the third floor. In the tight space already stood Senator Rob Portman of Ohio with, what I assumed, were a few of his higher level staff. I stood, awkwardly, wondering if I had mistakenly stepped inside a ‘Senator’s Only’ elevator. Nervous, I quickly hid my intern-badge under my blazer and hoped for a quick elevator ride. Then, as this thought was crossing my mind, in walks Senator John McCain.

The. Senator. John. McCain.

I swallowed hard, sure I was in a Senator’s only elevator, terrified of how embarrassing it would be if anyone voiced my unwelcome presence. Even as I braced myself for what would be the most humiliating moment in my life, I couldn’t believe that I was riding in the elevator with Senator McCain – regardless of the circumstances and regardless of his political ideology.

This sense of awe was the most consistent feeling I had over my summer internship in Washington, D.C. through the Truman Center’s UMKC Scholarship.

The total experience was definitely eye opening. I didn’t expect to be included in private breakfast lectures or hearings concerning the progress in Afghanistan. I didn’t expect to hear Senator Claire McCaskill speak on two separate occasions or spend every Wednesday morning with Senator Blunt himself. I never thought I would walk by Marco Rubio on a weekly basis (and think, “I should offer him some water,” each time). I never thought I’d ride two floors up in an elevator with Senator John McCain and stutter, “Good morning, sir,” to him the following day. I didn’t think I would walk down the street with Senator Cory Booker or Representative Emanuel Cleaver on different occasions. I attended a hearing to discuss our troop withdrawal in Afghanistan where both Marco Rubio and John McCain were present. I escorted the CEO of Ford from our office to his next meeting. I was introduced to the CEO and co-founder of Cerner Corporation by Senator Blunt, himself. And, most importantly, I met 5 new and amazing housemates and numerous other interns and staffers I fully intend to keep in touch with. I felt like a child at Disney World meeting princesses and princes after years of fantasizing about the trip.

The summer was beyond my greatest expectations and I am so incredibly grateful for having had that opportunity.

Noland Perrilloux
DC Experience Summary

The summer of 2014 has been the best summer so far; this summer I had the awesome opportunity of interning for the Honorable Senator Claire McCaskill. Over the course of the summer I had the opportunity to sit in on various committee hearings and briefings; they ranged from defense and foreign policy to energy and the environment. In addition to attending hearings I also gave tours of the Capitol for the office. I would escort constituents to the Capitol and proceed to take them to the Crypt, the Old Supreme Court Chamber, the Rotunda, Old Senate Chambers, and finally Statuary Hall. The main task I performed was answering phone calls from constituents and taking their comments as well as explaining Sen. McCaskill’s stance on issues. I also was able to help write a couple of response letters to constituents with questions over policy.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this program and thankful to the Truman Center and the UM system for providing the assistance necessary for me to spend the past two months interning in Washington, D.C. I have only been home for a week and I’m already missing the Capitol and the city as a whole. Thanks to this experience I now know I will definitely attend law school, hopefully one in or near Washington, DC. I’m also glad this summer provided me with the opportunity to meet with some of the brightest students from the other Missouri system schools; I intend to stay in touch with all of them. The summer of 2014 is one I will never forget. Thank you to all the teachers, sponsors, and everyone else who made this dream of mine become a reality!

Summer 2013

Joseph Salazar
DC experience essay

Participating in the Truman Bootstrap Scholarship program was a worthwhile experience. I had the opportunity and the honor to work in the Washington, D.C., office of Representative Emanuel Cleaver II through a stipend, housing allowance, and travel allowance provided by the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs. I also earned credit toward my degree program through participating in the program. Most importantly, the internship program allowed me to gain valuable real-world experience in a highly professional environment.

As an intern, a typical day ranged from purchasing tea for the congressman to preparing a major presentation for community groups. However, my core duty was to receive and respond to constituents’ correspondence, ensuring that all inquiries were accounted for. It was thrilling to be able to facilitate a constituent’s correspondence with their elected official. My favorite part about the internship was drafting letters that were sent to constituents. Drafting letters often involved drafting the first policy position the congressman had ever taken on a particular issue. For example, I drafted a letter to constituents who urged the Congressman to support a change to the Family Medical Leave Act that would allow parents who had recently experienced the death of a child to be eligible for leave under the federal legislation. The letter I wrote was the first time the Congressman officially addressed this particular issue.

The opportunity to live in Washington, D.C., during the summer was another huge opportunity made possible by the Truman Bootstrap Scholarship. Washington, D.C., is truly a city that runs on interns. Spending the summer there was the networking opportunity of a lifetime. Through my stay at the George Washington University dormitory and by attending formal intern events and program meetings, I met people from all over the country from a wide variety of schools, backgrounds, and fields.

Summer 2012

Emalea Black
Truman Bootstrap Award-Personal Statement

The opportunity to intern in the office of Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson has been an exceptional experience from both an educational and personal standpoint. As a student of Political Science, I have received a great deal of classroom education about how our government functions. But the type of understanding that you gain actually being in a congressional office cannot be replicated. This has allowed me to develop a really good framework for understanding how the federal government functions that I will utilize in my life, even if I never work in politics again.

I also learned many other less dramatic lessons while in DC. They spanned from learning my way around the capitol complex and the larger DC area, to learning to effectively navigate certain government websites and proposed legislation. My duties while in DC included constituent correspondence, answering phones, and working with constituents to schedule visits to DC. All of these tasks helped me to learn about functioning within a professional office. I was also allowed opportunities to attend policy briefings put on by many different organizations. These briefings, and the research that accompanied them, gave me a chance to become very familiar with specific pieces of proposed legislation in Congress. I was also privy to meetings between congressional staffers and advocacy groups. Although these meetings played in to my greater understanding of how government works, they also allowed me a better understanding of specific legislative efforts, like the Affordable Care Act.

Other benefits of the Truman Center Bootstrap Scholars award stem from simple location. I was given the chance to spend five weeks living in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Living in Foggy Bottom gave me the social experience of a collegiate at Georgetown or George Washington University. I went for runs to the White House. I went grocery shopping in Eastern Market, a public market that has been open since 1873. I was at Arlington National Cemetery during Memorial Day weekend. I visited the apothecary that once served both Robert E. Lee and George Washington. I attended a reception at the United States Botanical Gardens. I used my congressional ID badge to visit the Library of Congress reading room. I could go on for days about these smaller side trips. I could also go on and on about how much I enjoyed learning from every individual staff person in the Congresswomen’s office and the Congresswoman herself. All of these experiences contributed to my time as a Bootstrap scholar being one of the most exciting and educational five weeks of my life.

Lola Oduyeru
DC Experience Summary

My experience in Washington, DC was priceless. Interning in the office of Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II was exciting and rejuvenating. Not only does he represent Missouri’s 5th district, but he also is currently the chairman of the congressional Black Caucus. There was never a dull moment. From answering phones to writing letters and running statements to the house floor, I felt valued and a part of the team. One thing I admire about Congressman Cleaver is the importance he places on the views of his constituents. He was always eager to hear what kind of feedback was coming into the office whether it by phone, e-mail, or fax. I could not have chosen a more exciting time to be in D.C. Events such as the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Healthcare Law and the Attorney General proceedings heightened the excitement on the Hill. I was almost in disbelief after hearing Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speak after a vote. All that stood between us was a podium and a couple of microphones. This being my first time in Washington, I was stunned by the endless opportunities available to interns. I sat in on numerous hearings including a meeting held by the Committee on Foreign Affairs. This experience allowed me to have a better grasp on the inner workings of a congressional office, which more often than not, are different from what you would learn in a textbook or a classroom.

Washington, DC is a beautiful city. It did take a while to master the metro system, but after doing so I realized that just about every nook and cranny of the city was accessible by train. There were an endless number of monuments and museums to visit, most of which had free admission. I was given the chance to visit the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, to name a few. I cannot thank the Truman Center enough for this opportunity. Of the numerous interns and students I met this summer, I was saddened to learn that very few were from Missouri. I would not have been able to afford this experience without the Truman Center’s support. This experience was most certainly the highlight of my undergraduate career.

Summer 2011 Experiences

Alex Conaway
Truman Bootstrap Award- Personal Statement

I consider it a privilege to have had opportunities such as the Washington Summer Internship Program made available through the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs. Taking part in the Washington Internship Program, in the summer of 2011, coincided with my studies and created an opportunity to combine the knowledge I have gained in the classroom with practical experience in Washington.

The internship provided me with first-hand knowledge of the daily operations of Congress. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in the office of Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay from Missouri’s First Congressional District. I was able to assist Congressman Clay and his staff with various operations ranging from constituent outreach, legislative research on particular issues, drafting legislative memos and writing letters for the Congressman. This allowed me to become familiar with the services representatives provide and familiar with the operations of a Congressional office.

Additionally, the internship gave me the opportunity to experience the exciting and fast paced daily life on Capitol Hill. I was able to attend several committee hearings including the Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Financial Services Committee. I was also able to view several floor debates from the House Gallery. Being a Congressional Intern provided a number of additional opportunities. I was able to attend a lecture given by Colin Powell in the House of Representatives Chamber, as well as a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. I also had the opportunity to tour the White House, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Supreme Court.

While there are countless moments I will never forget, a few stand out more than others. These include the opportunity I had to sit on the House floor and take in an afternoon view of the National Mall from the Speakers’ Balcony of the Capitol. As well, I will never forget the afternoons in which I was able to descend the inside stairs of the Capitol to the balcony of the Capitol’s West Front, the route each President since Ronald Regan has taken on his inauguration day. Overall the internship was truly a rewarding experience and an opportunity I would encourage all students who are interested in the legislative process to pursue.

 

David Jordan
Intern Experience Summary

My experience in Washington, D.C. was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was given the chance to network with so many people and I know without a doubt that I’m going to use that network to my advantage in the future. Working for Congressman Cleaver was also a great experience. He was a man of integrity, alacrity and truly had a heart for serving people from his district and the country as a whole. It was a surreal summer for me. I had the chance to hear Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, General Colin Powell and other elites of the American political system speak. Every day of work brought some new challenge, thought or idea. I challenged myself each day to bring my absolute best to the office to make the office run more efficiently. Often just walking around D.C., I drew a lot of inspiration from the city and its culture. The culture was one of constant innovation.

Not only did I gain great working experience and relations, I got the chance to really explore D.C. Every day was a day of awe and beauty. The Washington Monument and the Capitol Building are two of the finest pieces of architecture ever assembled. The Lincoln Memorial was also great to see. Just being there I pictured Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address or Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. The National Archives also was fun; not only did I see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but I got the chance to research my family history and discovered it went back as far as five generations. This internship was a major turning point in my life where one day I will look back and say, because of that experience, I am where I am now.

 

Summer 2010 Experiences

Burgess

This past summer the Truman Center Bootstrap Internship and Scholarship provided me with an experience that I would have not been able to afford otherwise. I can say that I have fully realized the Truman Center’s vision to provide students with a political immersion experience. I learned so much about government and politics. Walking through the halls of the beautiful U.S. Capitol and seeing Congress in action, with my own eyes, was deeply inspiring. I now more fully realize the uniqueness of the Democratic process in America and how important it is to honorably participate in it. I have always had an interest in government affairs, but this internship helped me decide on a career path that I hope will give me the privilege to return to Capitol Hill in the future to work to shape public policy.

Interning in Senator Claire McCaskill’s office this summer was the best experience of my entire undergraduate career. At first, the bustling city of Washington, DC was a little intimidating, but the on-site mentor the Truman Center arranged for me to meet with weekly was very helpful and gave me tips on how to navigate the city. I have had good internships in the past, but I didn’t anticipate that my work would be so hands on. I worked closely with several legislative staff to research issues of specific interest to myself. I facilitated staff-led tours weekly to the Capitol building, which gave me a chance to learn the history of that magnificent structure and the origin of our government. I also had an opportunity to work with Senator McCaskill’s staff on the Government Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, where the Senator chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, during their preparation of the hearing to investigate the highly publicized Arlington National Cemetery Scandal.

Some of the highlights of my experience include meeting Missouri Representatives Russ Carnahan and Emanuel Cleaver, II, passing Senator John McCain in the hall, shaking hands with General Colin Powell, and attending a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I also had an opportunity to tour the White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress, the Pentagon, and the floor of the House of Representatives. Also, I witnessed several debates by Senators on pertinent issues such as the extension of unemployment benefits and the challenges of dealing with the oil spill crisis in the Gulf from the Senate floor. I was also present when Senate President Biden (the Vice-President serves as Senate President) swore in the new young Senator of West Virginia to replace the late Senator Robert Byrd after his death. It was very exciting and, if it were possible, I would definitely do it all over again.

 

Hoermann

Working in Washington D.C. this past summer really was the opportunity of a lifetime. Not only because the experiences and encounters that I had were unforgettable, but because I know that this opportunity probably would not have been a possibility for me if it had not been for the UMKC Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs. For those that do not know, volunteering your time to work for your congressperson comes with a considerable amount of expenses, and as a student working three jobs just to pay for my daily living expenses in Kansas City, I would never have imagined that this would be a possibility for me.

As I mentioned before, I had many valuable experiences, but one stands out most in my mind. On my last day in Washington, Congressman Cleaver took the time to show me around the capitol building. Another intern and I walked around star-struck as we passed through "Members Only" halls filled with politicians and ambassadors. He told us many stories, but when it came time to work, he walked on to the floor to vote or to listen to Madame Speaker Pelosi commemorate the death of Senator Robert Byrd. Yet amidst all of this excitement, he kept us engaged with many anecdotes and facts. At one point, we were standing outside of a balcony on the north side of the capitol and he stopped and turned to us to say:

"This is the balcony Truman was sitting on when he learned he was going to be the next president of the United States. He was playing cards with all his buddies and just having a good time, when an official came out and delivered the news. Can you imagine what that would feel like? Now every year on his birthday all of the Missouri Senators and Representatives come to this balcony to celebrate his legacy."

Needless to say, I was floored. That last day had a truly monumental impact on me. So I want to reach out to my fellow UMKC students and encourage them to take hold of this phenomenal opportunity that we are so fortunate to have available to us.

 

Resources

Watch our videos of previous lectures

Contact Us

Program Director:

Ambassador Allan Katz
phone: 816.235.5066
email: katza@umkc.edu

Truman Bootstrap Internship Coordinator

Dr. Greg Vonnahme
phone: 816.235.5948
email: vonnahmeg@umkc.edu