By Jennifer Keledjian
The Armenian Assembly of America Summer Internship Program gives students from around the world the opportunity to immerse themselves within the scope of our government. For eight weeks, interns are not only exposed first-hand to the policy-making process of our government, they also learn about issues of importance to the Armenian community.
Twenty-one students from all over the world, including Pennsylvania, Florida, Rhode Island and California, even Russia and Armenia, were selected to participate as interns for the summer.
Most interns were placed in the House of Representatives or Senate, working for Congressmen such as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. John Porter (R-IL). Others worked for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Rep. James Rogan (R-CA). Interns were also placed in fields directly relating to their area of study: human rights, public relations, business and banking.
I had the opportunity to intern for Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA), from Fresno’s 19th district. This introduced me to a challenging, yet rewarding opportunity to learn about national and international politics.
My duties included a wide range of tasks, such as reading and responding to constituent mail, giving tours of the Capitol and House buildings and attending informative hearings and lectures regarding government or public policy and reform.
The most interesting and challenging task I was given was composing a letter directed to 450 randomly selected Armenian constituents throughout the 19th district in California. This letter detailed the Congressman’s position on international relations, specifically on the Silk Road Bill and how threats by Azerbaijan, an influential country, can hurt and harm Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh.
The Armenian Assembly also provided us with the opportunity to meet with various professionals from the community, all who have a deep interest in Armenian affairs, nationally as well as globally. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. Sherman (D-CA) spoke with us about their outlook on Armenian issues, specifically in Washington, and what students can do to be involved. We also met with Levon Avdoyan, Armenian and Georgian Librarian at the Library of Congress, Edward Alexander, author of “Crime of Vengeance, the Life of Soghomon Tehlirian,” and Paul Goble of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, all who spoke on Armenian concerns.
Our summer also included many different social and recreational activities in Washington, DC and Georgetown. We toured monuments and museums, attended open-air concerts and participated in several cultural activities. We met with interns from the Armenian National Committee and the students of the Armenian Youth Federation, as well as interns and staff members working on Capitol Hill for softball games on the Mall, barbecues and social outings.
Participating in the Armenian Assembly Summer Internship Program in Washington, DC not only opened my eyes to see our government as a respectable and effective system, it increased my interest in international relations within Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, as well as the Armenian-American community in the U.S.
Meeting with students from across the nation, all with different perspectives, goals and ambitions, yet with a common interest in their Armenian culture and heritage, encouraged me to be active not only in Washington, but in my own community as well.