Thursday, July 23, 2009

Goodbye, FCNL! Reflections from our Junior Intern Alex Hull

For the last 6 weeks, Alex Hull from Kenyon College has been helping me here at the office. He has been amazing--making hundreds of calls, putting together packets, accompanying me on lobby visits, learning his way through my alphabet soup Washington-speak, and updating you all on a weekly basis through the blogroll. I asked him to reflect on his time at FCNL. This is what he said:

My time at FCNL is sadly at an end. I’ve finished my phone calls, sent out the last of the potluck packets, and coolly navigated my first solo lobby visit. As the dust settles on my six week jaunt on the hill, I thought I’d share a few of my reflections.

I’ve learned to speak rudimentary Washington-ese (HR2709, grasstops, ICE, E-verify), mastered both copy machines, and fostered an appetite for late night C-SPAN. I’ve learned the ins and outs of our immigration system, which, by the way, is unbelievably dysfunctional in every way, and I’ve gotten a taste of how and why this government serves its people. I’ve learned that the Metro system is never to be trusted and that Washington is literally the hottest place on the planet.

Time and time again, I’ve found myself marveling at the anxious scheduler who lurks behind every member of Congress, constantly whispering into his/her member’s ear about the latest political developments on the hill. They are the epitome of 21st century efficiency and accountability. At the same time, tangible political progress is achieved at a snail’s pace in Washington. The health care debate will rage on into the fall, and as a result, the immigration debate will surely be put on hold. Somewhat paradoxically, things move really slowly and really quickly here in Washington. It is a city both in and out of touch with the rest of America.

Into this paradoxical city I entered, determined to learn as much as possible and make a real difference. My assigned task at FCNL was to set up potluck dinners across the nation in support of immigration reform. First my supervisor Alex and I designed a packet of planning materials, complete with film screening options, ways to contact members of Congress, colorful flyers and letter-writing templates. It really is a veritable immigration activism super-packet, if I say so myself. Then I dedicated my last two weeks to the phones, calling people across this nation and begging them to look at my packet and plan a potluck of their own. I called people from Maine to Oregon, and ended up sending about 55 packets out to interested parties. I was honestly really surprised at the number of people who were willing to consider hosting a dinner. It’s a big undertaking—planning and executing a dinner, and for such a nebulous cause at that. But this cause is an important one—our actions are vital and our voices need to be heard. There is heartbreak and dehumanization in every town across this nation, and it’s because our immigration system is broken, but not beyond repair. We must hold ourselves to be responsible for the way our government treats the least of its people. It is our duty as people of faith who walk humbly with God to protect those who need protection, and call out for those who cannot call out for themselves.

We must be the text on that scheduler’s blackberry. We must be the whisper in that member’s ear. Only when we are everywhere, in everyone’s ear, will we be heard.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of those who worked with me at FCNL this summer. Each one of you welcomed me into your workplace with a daily smile and a wave. For a terrified intern, it made all the difference. A special thanks goes to my supervisor Alex Douglas who was helpful, kind, and patient, day in and day out.

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