The echo of these words, “…and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” spoken by President Abraham Lincoln, reverberates across Washington state through the activity of its elected leaders. Representative government is the foundation upon which this country was built and the people are the mortar that holds it together. So, what does it mean to be a representative? My quest to answer this question led me to pursue this opportunity as a legislative intern for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and set me on the path to public service.
During this internship I have had a behind-the-scenes view of our government at work. Not only did I witness that work, but I also took part in the activities that drive our government and make up the legislative process. For example, I testified during committee hearings, analyzed bills to assess their impact on society, and communicated with legislators and stakeholders. Participating in these activities helped me understand the legislative process while improving my communication, analytical, and interpersonal skills.
As the end of this internship draws near, and I make my final contribution to the legislative intern blog, it is the best time to answer the question: “what does it mean to be a representative?” My answer to this question did not come through the spoken word. Instead, it came through the actions of the Racial Equity Team (RET). The RET is a people of color-led network of community leaders, activists, and lobbyists who work to empower communities of color across Washington state.
I had the privilege of working with the RET during my time on Capitol Hill. While working with such a diverse group of people, I observed the watched people build relationships and then, together, uplift the political voice of communities of color. Every day, the RET showed its commitment to identify the needs of the people who have historically been ignored and to communicate their needs to elected officials. The RET demonstrated that being a representative means recognizing the needs of the voiceless, formulating or supporting a proposed solution, and using the power of relationships to move the government to action.
Understanding the power of relationships is my biggest takeaway of this experience because the relationships that are formed serve as a bridge of opportunity that others can use to reach their fullest potential. Indeed, serving as one brick in the bridge of opportunity is a stepping stone to reaching my fullest potential in public service and will enable me to ensure that every voice is heard. The investment made in me by the RET will be returned many times over as I pursue a law degree and eventually a career as an elected official where I will not only hear the needs of the people, but also share in the collective power of the Washington State Legislature to change the lives through the legislative process.