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They faced the national press, saw firsthand how the legislative process works, promoted First Amendment rights, and met national leaders.
Six Constitutional Fellows served as interns in Washington, D.C., this past summer thanks to Benedictine College’s “BC in D.C.” program, an initiative of the Center for Constitutional Liberty.
After serving on the front line of a religious freedom rally, legislative efforts, Capitol tours, and the press briefings, these Ravens are grateful for the hands-on experiences they received on Capitol Hill, as well as at think tanks and other nonprofits.
Senior Connor Klocke interned in the office of Congressman Jake LaTurner, who represents much of eastern Kansas. His duties included communicating with constituents over the phone, conducting background research for committee hearings, leading Capitol tours, and drafting constituent reply letters. “Watching floor proceedings, interest group meetings, hearings, and interactions between members of Congress helped me develop a greater understanding of the culture of the U.S. House, and communicating over the phone with constituents provided me with a better understanding of the most pressing issues they face,” said Klocke.
Facing the intense realities of the behind-the-scenes work was exhilarating and formative for each intern. “Towards the end of the internship, Congressman LaTurner was caught in the middle of a situation that made national news,” said Klocke. “Up until then, I had never been in a situation where my words held as much power as they did then, nor had I ever experienced firsthand the power of the press. This was an experience that a student like me could only get from a Capitol Hill internship.”
For Klocke, his experience on Capitol Hill gave him a greater understanding of the federal legislative branch. “Above all, the up-close view of Congress that I had access to has left me even more eager to continue to seek formation and education so that I might one day serve in government,” said Klocke. “In short, I am leaving this internship (slightly) wiser, more aware of the reality of politics, better connected, and more ambitious than ever.”
Junior Jacob Hahn (pictured to the right with Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson) was an intern in the office of Senator Roger Marshall. His duties included helping resolve issues for constituents by answering and logging phone calls, emails, and mail, leading tours for Kansans touring Capitol Hill, aiding the communications team in creating graphics for communications campaigns, and creating and organizing contact spreadsheets for the legislative team.
One of the meaningful projects Hahn worked on was developing graphics for Senator Marshall’s fentanyl awareness campaign. “This campaign focuses on getting the word out about drug cartels, who are bringing illegal fentanyl into our country and communities,” said Hahn. “One fentanyl pill can kill and, unfortunately, is killing approximately one Kansan every single day. Some of the graphics that I designed will be displayed on social media and Sen. Marshall’s fentanyl awareness page in the coming weeks.”
The opportunity was invaluable, he said.
“I am very blessed to have had this opportunity interning in D.C. and would not have been able to experience it without my scholarship from the Center for Constitutional Liberty,” said Hahn. “This trip was just what I was hoping it would be. I was able to get my feet wet in politics and experience the Hill culture while making connections and learning more about many different issues. I also learned that our government is truly a battleground where we need good, moral, and virtuous people to engage. It is a mission that I hope to engage in someday, and this experience gave me a hint of what that life would look like. Again, I could not have experienced this internship without the Center for Constitutional Liberty, and I am extremely grateful.”
Finally, senior John Welte (center in the picture to the right at the Union League of Philadelphia) was an intern at the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI). Some of his duties included making a spreadsheet tracking the statements and opinions of the members of Congress, reading through both the House and Senate versions of the bill to make sure that the bills were the same, combing through the bill to take note of all the sexual orientation and gender identity keywords in the bill, and to start a separate spreadsheet to track the current bills in Congress that use these keywords.
As part of his internship, Welte also participated in a protest and rally for parents standing up for their children. Welte explained how the experience showed how members of different religious communities can rally around common ground. “I was there with the leader of the Islam action team. This event showed that people who are united by sincere religious beliefs should unite in fighting for truth. We should focus on what brings us together instead of always focusing on what divides us.”
One aspect of being supported to pursue an internship in Washington, D.C., that each Raven shared was deep gratitude for the excellent, hands-on experiences they received. “RFI has given me awesome experiences that I would not otherwise be able to experience, and it has been able to equip me for my future,” said Welte. “The interns at RFI were made up of a diverse background of religious beliefs, but we were all brought here by a common belief in religious freedom and in the belief of something higher than us.”
Benedictine College’s Transforming Culture in America plan makes professional advancement for students a high priority, saying “Transforming Culture in America will require leaders in the workplace and public life who inspire others to be committed to living the Gospel.”
The plan responds to St. John Paul II’s The Church in America, which calls on Catholic colleges to “train truly Christian leaders in the different spheres of human activity, and in society, especially in politics, economics, science, art and philosophical reflection.” Benedictine has established a center for each which “advance its mission in every walk of life by providing internships, service and experiential learning opportunities, and career preparation based on its distinctive, mission-focused education, to place students in key positions when they graduate.”
The “BC in D.C.” program was started specifically to help Benedictine College students gain experience in positions of power in our nation’s capital in order to further the Center for Constitutional Liberty’s mission to inspire, inform, and direct the next generation of America’s leaders. To find out more about the Center for Constitutional Liberty and its activities, please visit the Center’s homepage.