Photo by Mary Lind | The Rhode Island State House.

When I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a lawyer. I watched the news every day with my parents and pretended to know more about politics than I actually did. My strong interest in government stemmed from my tour of the United States Capitol the spring before. The tour was made possible through the office of Senator Jack Reed.

I kept my interest in politics all the way until 2017 when I became disheartened with the United States government and current events. It all became too tiring and felt hopeless– my passion faded.

In the spring of 2018, I came across the application for a summer internship position in Senator Reed’s Washington D.C. office. I felt like I would be letting my fourth-grade self down if I did not apply; so I did, and later was surprised and excited to be accepted into the position.

The internship itself was an amazing experience. While there I had the opportunity to see many important political figures speak such as Paul Ryan, Betsy Devos and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had free roam of the Capitol and Senate buildings, having access to areas that normal citizens would not. We also had the ability to attend various House of Representative and Senate hearings and briefings.

In the office itself, the interns were responsible for finding various data upon staffer requests. The information we found were related to topics such as immigration, the environment, finances, defense, education, etc.. During this process, I became re-invested in what was happening in society. Reading about certain topics and learning the facts surrounding the issues was extremely fascinating to me. Being forced into a situation where I had no choice but to be informed in current events helped me realize that my interest in politics is still alive.

The staff members around me also helped reinforce this. I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent individuals who were passionate about the work they were doing. They were willing to help and explain concepts to us to aid our learning. They did not try to undermine us as interns but instead helped us to grow. Senator Reed’s staffers emulated the Senator himself.

Reed is a Rhode Island Democratic senator from Cranston. He has held this position since 1997, and it is clear why. He is one of the remaining politicians whose primary aim is working towards the common good, not his own personal achievement. This past March, Reed wrote a bill that received support on both sides to advance pediatric cancer.

Despite having net worth that is over $2 million less than the average senator, Reed is one of the only senators who pays his interns. As a college student, living in D.C. (even for a short amount of time) is very expensive. Without pay, it is impossible for some students to intern on Capitol Hill regardless of merit. I personally could not have taken the internship if it was unpaid so I am extremely grateful for this benefit.

As a man himself, Senator Reed is kind and empathetic. He speaks with great eloquence and embodies morality. It is clear that he is well respected by everyone who works with him, regardless of political beliefs. Jack Reed is truly a senator for the people.

The internship was not all great. Some of the briefings made me extremely nervous and sad for the future of our country. I was also angry that more senators were not like Senator Reed. I saw that it was unfair of these politicians–both Republican and Democrat– to put their own desire for power ahead of the needs of their constituents.

But even with the inflow of troubling information, being surrounded by Senator Reed, his staffers and my fellow interns who all had such a passion to do the right thing and make a difference, restored my belief in the American political system.

Senator John McCain, a friend of Senator Reed, once said, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.” As long as there are truly good, motivated people within Capitol Hill, our country is not hopeless.