Category Archives: Intern

Blog: Meet One of NETWORK’s Summer Interns

Blog: Meet One of NETWORK’s Summer Interns

Andi Hinnenkamp
June 16, 2011

NETWORK is deeply grateful for the presence in our office of dedicated interns and volunteers. Without them, it would be impossible to accomplish all the work needed to fulfill our mission! Andi is one of our summer interns this year, and here is her story.

Hi, My name is Andi Hinnenkamp. I am originally from Wichita, KS and will be a junior this year at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. My majors are in Political Science: Public Policy and History with an International Relations Specialization. Government and history have always fascinated me so it is a privilege for me to be interning with NETWORK in DC for a few months. I am learning a lot so far about the legislation process, especially the things they don’t teach you in school.

The specific area I am researching here at NETWORK will be military budget spending. This is especially important in the light of federal budget talks and the many conflicts our country is currently involved with. I was happy to hear that NETWORK’s policy on defense spending is in line with my own. We are not idealists who argue that war is always wrong and defense should never be used. Yet, it should be the last resort. Before we use the military we need to create strong diplomatic relations with a country and work with them to develop their country.

In light of our faith, our budget must reflect our values. Many politicians today will tell you that the number one priority of our nation is to provide a strong defense. I would like to hear instead that the number one priority of our nation is to insure that U.S. citizens are able to live up to their full potential. Instead, we find huge numbers of Americans incarcerated each year, many children who do not get the adequate education they deserve, an ever-growing economic disparity between the wealthy and poorest Americans, and high unemployment rates.

This also plays into the other project I will be helping with: the Mind the Gap! campaign. This past year in school I was part of an intentional community on one of our residence hall floors, named after the late great Jon Cortina, SJ. As a community we were required to take a class on Justice and Peace Studies.  There we studied the idea of inequalities in our society, whether racial or economic. It opened my eyes to the fact that I am extremely lucky that I have everything I have, even compared to most of those in America. I thought poverty was something that affected very few Americans and was something only third-world countries experienced in great quantities. Yet, poverty exists in vast quantities all over our nation. I think too many people do not realize how horrible the problem has become and how easy it is for people to slip from the middle to poor class in the U.S. So I’m hoping to use my knowledge and perspective to help Page May with the campaign.

Blog: A “Springboard” to Learning about Politics and National Security

A “Springboard” to Learning about Politics and National Security

By Jim Kachadoorian
July 12, 2010

In addition to my time at NETWORK, I’m attending the Summer Intern Security Springboard at the Truman National Security Project this summer. It’s a crash course in everything a young leader needs to become competent, confident, and literate in national security policy. Held for an hour every Thursday afternoon, the Springboard is a great complement to my experience at NETWORK.

The first week’s presentation discussed the philosophical differences between Progressives and Conservatives. At the heart of the matter was Conservative success in value politics, and how Progressives have been unable to effectively use the approach. In light of President Obama’s recent speech on immigration, what we discussed at the Springboard can help us better understand the political atmosphere around Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Dating back to Nixon’s appeal to the silent majority in 1972, Conservatives have spent decades understanding and broadcasting the values they stand for. As a general rule, Conservative success has resulted from establishing baseline values and from there, articulating policy. Consider the Patriot Act under President Bush. From the fundamental value of a strong respect for American Security, support was rallied, translating into the policy of the Patriot Act. Would the Patriot Act have stood a chance without effective value politics? Probably not. Was its success a testament to the inherent value and merit of the legislation? Not necessarily. Yet the Act sprung into law, energized by the value politics of Conservatives.

Let’s fast forward to the present. In the face of domestic turmoil and controversial legislation in Arizona, Republicans have framed the immigration debate as a matter of national security. Democrats have every right to worry about a national conversation in this context. When asked ‘Which party do you associate with ‘too hesitant to use force,’ 59% of respondents chose the Democratic Party, while only 21% chose the GOP. Similarly, when asked ‘Which party do you associate with ‘patriotic,’ Republicans received 45% of the vote, compared to only 28% for Democrats. Lastly, when asked what ‘the number one reason democrats are weak on security?’ was, a resounding 33% margin indicated that “they follow the polls/change position based on public opinion.”

Progressives must consider these results if the immigration debate will be seen through the lens of national security. The reason Democrats trail in these polls is not an issue of policy- it’s all about a failure to project the progressive values. Too often, progressives expect the inherent values behind proposed legislation to be clear and implicit. Most non-expert Americans have been slow to connect with character and values, not policy.

With this in mind, I analyzed President Obama’s speech on immigration. I can’t help but feel the President might have missed an opportunity to use value politics effectively. I’m left wondering what values should be emphasized in the future to help a comprehensive bill pass.

A good start would be National Security. Through the naturalization of undocumented workers already here, improvement to our existing channels of documented immigration, and efficient protection of our borders, America would emerge stronger than ever. Also worth noting is that reform would resolve the legal limbo between the responsibility of states and the Federal Government, making it possible to collectively stride toward a safer country.

Reiterating the Economic Benefit of a comprehensive bill would certainly raise a few eyebrows. Constituencies across the nation continue to rank the economy as the most pressing political issue facing us today. If the people want economic reassurance, why not frame immigration reform in this light? A comprehensive bill would protect native wages from a “race to the bottom,” give businesses the labor they need to thrive, and result in billions of dollars in tax revenue. Immigration reform could be precisely the shot in the arm America needs in these challenging times.

Human Dignity is a value that ultimately transcends the political process. Relying on undocumented workers for a crucial 15 % of our labor force without granting them the opportunity to earn citizenship is brutally inhumane. Continuing without reform would gradually strip away any self-respect our nation could claim in this regard. An appeal towards the human dignity of comprehensive reform could rally undecided legislators behind a bill.

Perhaps most compellingly, wouldn’t a comprehensive reform bill be the most American thing to do? If America was founded as an immigrant nation rooted in meritocracy, liberty, and equality, then it becomes our moral imperative to reform the system. An immigrant willing to work hard and satisfy all legal obligations reflects the opportunity inherent in the American dream, not blanket amnesty.

Who doesn’t like National Security, Economic Benefit, Human Dignity, and America? To stir up momentum for a comprehensive bill, Democratic leaders should start appealing more to the values behind the policy. The majority of the country makes a judgment off of basic values and character, not the fine print of a complex bill. It’s ultimately up to whether or not the White House and Congress can convey an immigration bill’s merit, simply and succinctly, to the American people.

Blog: Week Two as a NETWORK Intern and the Fourth of July

Blog: Week Two as a NETWORK Intern and the Fourth of July

Bethan Johnson
Jun 08, 2013

According to Merriam-Webster’s definition of an intern, my role at NETWORK would be as “an advanced student or graduate usually in a professional field…gaining supervised practical experience.” After this, my second and shortened week with NETWORK, I have realized that my role is so much more than that phrase.

Aside the fact that I am neither a graduate nor an advanced student, the implied 9-5 nature of internships differs from my experience. I assumed that I could shed my newly developing “lobbyist” persona as easily I did my business clothes after a long commute. I quickly learned that I couldn’t be satisfied by the limited definitions often associated with the word “intern.”

I have quickly wanted to be the first person in the office and the last person out; I love checking my email in the hopes of finding some new project I can help with. The obsession has even gone so far as to unofficially adopt raising the federal minimum wage as a critical piece of legislation to follow, meaning I spout off numbers to friends and spend my nights thinking about the best ways to convince potential supporters to see the benefits of increasing the minimum wage.

Despite this growing passion, by the middle of my second week I realized that, while I loved the challenge of inspiring change, the work can also be frustrating. Seeing potentials for improvement being ignored or closed off, researching failed bills or undervalued NGOs, or learning the extended timeline on a life-altering piece of legislation has, on occasion, temporarily made me lose faith in the awesome power of American politics.

So I promised myself a weekend away from work. As trivial as that may seem coming from someone who has spent only a little more time in the workforce than it would take to name all of the subcommittees in Congress, I hatched the idea that a time away from the commotion of Congress and from the occasionally pernicious power struggles of politics would give me clarity. I thought the only major parts of work that I would miss during my extra two days off would be my co-workers and the tempting smells of the food trucks. (I admit I did actually spend the entire weekend searching high and low for one certain dessert truck)

Honestly, the idea of celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington DC excited me well before my decision to avoid work did. As the child of a proud Welsh mother, Independence Day parties never really happened for us; instead, we traveled to our grandmother’s to celebrate family birthdays and tried not to mention the other holiday in front of Mum. Living away from home for my first Fourth of July, I knew that this Fourth of July had the potential to be different, to be real…to be American. So I decided that if I was going to celebrate Independence Day at all, I would celebrate it all the way. I mapped out my day so that every moment was bursting with American-ness: the Independence Day Parade, American History Museum, tour of the Mall, and fireworks under the Washington Monument.

The task of avoiding work seemed easy with the help of fireworks and floats. I thought I could go back to the person I was three weeks ago.

But, as it turns out, NETWORK simply wouldn’t give my mind the weekend off. I considered how our children and our children’s children would remember us, our society, our actions and inactions, as I walked through the halls of the American History museum, as my friends and I watched the Independence Day Parade and walked past the Capitol Dome, and most powerfully as we sat in front of the Washington Monument watching the fireworks explode and disappear before our eyes.

As I looked up at the jubilant sky, flashing red then blue then white and red again, it seemed clear to me that America has always been about the future. We inscribe on our money “In God We Trust” because we know there is a future we are invested in; we construct buildings like the Washington Monument or the World War II Memorial because we as a society need to guarantee our stories are told throughout the generations; we explode fireworks on the National Mall to show all generations that America has awesome power and, despite our financial difficulties and political divisions, traditions are valued in America.

The true weight of the day really hit me when my friends and I decided to walk to the Lincoln Memorial to kill time before riding the Metro home. While we laughed and said we would do this in the hopes of avoiding the transportation-challenged tourists, in reality we went because we knew that the place would feel more honest and true that night than on any other.

Standing before the gigantic Lincoln statue for the first time in 5 years, I recalled my eighth-grade civics trip, which brought me to the exact same place; just as I did then, as I read his words, his commitment to honor and his hope for a brighter future, I shed a tear.

To the left of President Lincoln’s statue is his Gettysburg Address, given in commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg just 4 months prior. In it, a sick and weak Lincoln found the courage to say, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I soon realized the tear came from a new place, a deeper place, a place built on the foundation NETWORK has given me. The commitment Lincoln described, this promise to battle onward knowing that my voice may never be distinguished from among the crowd or remembered, was what my time at NETWORK will hopefully prove to be.

While the realization was refreshing, I quickly recognized a mental slip into the NETWORK mindset and, in the hopes of preserving my personal promise, I tried to escape for some air on the steps.

One thing I have learned while living in this city is that Washington DC can always boast historical tributes within walking distance, and the Lincoln Memorial is no different. As I walked across the steps I came to stone that marked the location of the podium used during the March on Washington. There I stood, in the same place that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins and John Lewis stood almost 50 years ago.

No sooner had I planted my feet upon that stone than did I remember the words so often read to us in school in the days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On that late August day, Dr. King told America, “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

With Dr. King’s sightline, with President Lincoln staring at my back, and with Congress before me I asked myself the question I’d been too afraid to ask before: where are our leaders today? Who are this generation’s great leaders?

The marble ghosts of the men around me seemed to whisper the answer in my ear. America’s best leaders, the men and women we chose to honor above all others, were citizens of great vision and foresight. George Washington and the Founding Fathers risked every security to ensure the freedom of their neighbors; President Lincoln led America into a war with itself to end the greatest institutional injustice in America; President Roosevelt recognized the necessity of war and slowly prepared Americans to fight; Dr. King inspired hundreds of thousands to stand up for the rights of all Americans.

These were not political pundits or popularity hounds; they were men willing to risk life and security to protect the values Americans treasure most.

Leaders like these are hard to find today. In a political and economic climate that focuses on balancing the budget and arming for the next potential attack, many Americans have lived with the misfortune of never knowing what truly great American politicians sound and act like. Politicians tell constituents that this must be the era of sacrifice, unabashed and indiscriminate sacrifice.

I was shocked to read in the 2013 Faithful Budget, signed by NETWORK, the line “We cannot leave our children a legacy of debt, but neither must we leave them with a legacy of rising poverty and growing inequality.” The sentence struck me for the simple reason that such arguments have fallen away from politics, and we have begun to accept the narrative of unchallenged defensive action. This sentence proved to me that voices, harboring the same passion and urgency as Dr. King and the Founding Fathers, still exist somewhere within politics.

So, this Independence Day I found myself reinvesting in America’s future. Sorry Mum, I may be a little bit more American than when I last saw you. And this particular Fourth of July holiday also made me realize three things: one, food trucks are still the most convenient way to find lunch in DC, especially if you want to avoid three days-worth of sunburn; two, being a NETWORK intern may, at this rate, never really end for me; and three, that Americans must demand of our political leaders that they look to our history in order to become proactive and inspiring leaders.

I will close with those words that have pleasantly haunted me this weekend, and I imagine will continue to do so for the duration of my time working in politics. Although written for an audience almost 150 years ago, I think President Lincoln sensed America’s future so strongly that he spoke even to us as he said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Blog: Building a Foundation for Social Justice

Building a Foundation for Social Justice

By Joseline Araujo
March 17, 2016

My name is Joseline Anne Araujo, and I am a Junior at Trinity Washington University (Class of 2017), majoring in Sociology and minoring in History. This summer I was very fortunate to be accepted to an exciting program called Just Advocacy Week by NETWORK here in the heart of the District of Columbia.

About five months earlier, Sr. Mary Johnson, a Trinity sister of Notre Dame, who is one of my favorite professors at Trinity Washington University, introduced me to this opportunity NETWORK was offering for a week in the summer. I was excited because Sr. Mary’s honors Theology course had me very interested in the social justice movement, and what better way to join than with a famous organization right here in DC! Sr. Mary provided me with the steps to apply and spoke to me about other opportunities that she had in mind. However, she strongly encouraged me to apply to the NETWORK program; I did and was accepted to participate in June.

There were 16 students from all over the country this year: Chicago, South Carolina, Georgia, Washington state, Maryland, and more. From the beginning of the program, there were many inspiring people like Rachel, Sarah, Allison, Collin and Sr. Simone Campbell to learn from and share our views about different social justice topics. Automatically our group was united, motivated, supportive and fun!

The entire goal of the week-long program was to become prepared with knowledge, personal experiences, and practice to lobby on Capitol Hill.  The issue we would lobby on was tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit . Our task was to speak to our senators and representatives from our home state about making the tax credits permanent and why we supported them personally and statistically. Aside from this main objective of the week, we also were able to see the D.C. monuments and the nation’s capital inside and out.

Advocacy, lobbying and spiritual awareness were all taught in this program. I learned how to spread solidarity and to create a change through the political world and bring this knowledge back into my own community. Anyone is able to lead and make a difference with strategy and passion.

At the end of the week, I learned about a possible internship at the NETWORK office during the following year. And gratefully I am now completing a wonderful internship with the Grassroots Mobilization Team and organizing the 2016 Just Advocacy Week program for NETWORK.

Our social justice work did not, however, stop at the end of the week. We were all instructed to envision a topic for a project to work on back in our hometowns and follow up with our NETWORK mentors in January. I am continuing to form this project and work on social justice issues with my community. All of the support, knowledge and experience earned from Just Advocacy Week were breath-taking and made me wish the program was longer than just a week. There is much to be done in the community and this opportunity to build a solid foundation changed my perspective on how to fight for social justice.

“When No One Else Stands, You Stand.” –Reverend Frederick D. Reese

Joseline Aruajo is a current NETWORK intern and a Junior at Trinity Washington University