My name is Martin Lopez and I am a junior here at the Ohio State University and a political science student. I used my STEP experience at an internship at Illinois (IL-10) Congressman Robert Dold’s district office in Lincolnshire, Illinois last summer. At my internship, I performed a variety of tasks. I helped to plan and staff town halls, job fairs, and job workshops. I helped coordinate these events with and promote them to local, county, and village governments and citizens in the community. I produced a comprehensive directory of village hall, police department, library, and park district contacts for the 10th district and the surrounding area. I wrote letters of commendation for distinguished individuals, handled some reception duties, and helped to clean up the office’s information databases. I also researched events in the community that Congressman Dold could go to and he even attended some of the ones that I suggested. I helped to lay the groundwork for a future high-school entrepreneurship competition by networking with local entrepreneurs and educators.
The experience made me want to continue to work in politics and government. I’ve worked with Congressman Robert Dold for three years and this summer was no exception to what I’ve found in working for him. He is a dedicated public servant committed to helping his constituents and to putting country before party or self-interest. His staff follow this as well. I always saw our staff working to help people who were in desperate need of work or people who needed help in getting endangered relatives across the globe to the U.S. Nonpartisanship and dedication to public service were also instilled in those of us who worked at the office.
I learned that politics is not always as nasty as it can sometimes seem and that I can have a positive impact on other people and apply my skills in political science if I choose to pursue a career in government. Even in the midst of a heated election cycle, the experience has me proud to work for him and make me feel like I have a good, virtuous home in politics and it has transformed my expectations of what I can accomplish and how I can help people through my work.
What helped me to experience this transformation is that I gained career and public policy experience for my political science major working at my congressman’s district office at home. I learned just how much representatives and governmental offices have to interact with other governmental agencies on a daily, if not hourly basis. While I had some idea that congressmen and women had to work with government agencies like Social Security and the State Department on behalf of their constituents, I didn’t know how involved a congressional office has to get in pushing forward cases, resolving backlogs, and in mediating disputes.
The main skill that I improved upon was my networking ability. A congressional office is constantly working as a networking office connecting village, state, and federal government resources with community leaders and normal residents. I helped to do this in planning job fairs, contacting village town halls and police departments, and in meeting with business leaders.
I also saw how much specific issues I encountered at a local level can become pertinent issues nationally. When I met or spoke over the phone with employers, business people, and regular constituents, I consistently heard about trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement–only to see it become a major campaign issue later on. To me, this was an example of how I could make a difference in my area. I was one of several individuals in the office who took constituent feedback, and it is easy for me to see now how the public outreach and policy recommendations that I might do at a local district office or think tank will have an impact in the world, and even on people I know.
As I mentioned earlier, the internship helped me to solidify my plans and interests to work in politics and government. In turn, I have become even more engrossed in my political science courses for my major here at Ohio State. The internship has really helped me to manage my club here on campus, the Alexander Hamilton Society. Hustling and scrambling to contact villages to round up attendees for our events has taught me how to do the same thing for the Hamilton Society’s public events, discussions, and debates. I was directly able to build off of the momentum we achieved at Congressman Dold’s office in drawing large crowds to town halls and job fairs to bring in a crowd of over 240 for the Hamilton Society’s first event in September. Witnessing the civility and the depth of Congressman Dold’s discourse at such events also inspired me to try and conduct myself in a similar manner and to continue to do with the Society.