I have only traveled to few places throughout my life, such as California, Texas, and Mexico, but I had never really stepped out of that comfort zone of my Mexican American community. Back home, I could only imagine what it would be like to live in another part of the country. I wanted to step out of Arizona and gain a new perspective – and that’s exactly what has happened. I can barely describe it, but I feel as if my mind has been opened. Next, I had never had a job before this summer, so I had no idea what to expect and I was very nervous. However, everything went smoothly from day one, and the people in my office were very welcoming. Aside from learning how the Hill works, I have also grown as a person. I don’t feel locked in or isolated from world – I feel like I am a part of it, and I have met people from different backgrounds that I have so much respect for. For the new interns, I recommend for you take advantage of every opportunity here in DC. Get to know your fellow interns, for you all have the potential to create special bonds. I want to congratulate the next interns on their selection, and I am here for anyone that needs me.
Before coming here, I thought that I would get the opportunity to meet President Obama. The reason was that in the media they made it seem that he was all over DC. That gave me the impression that I would run into him. I was a little disappointed, but it did not take always from me having fun. Even though I did not meet President Obama, I did make strong connections with the follow interns. The advice I will share with the incoming interns will be enjoy yourself and work hard. At the end of the day you make the best out of this experience. Also I will like to remind them that there are many people that will love to be in their position, and take advantage of it.
I remember the day I said goodbye to my family in San Antonio Airport at 5am with no idea of what to expect. On the flight from Chicago, I randomly met the person who would be one of my roommates and who later became one of my best friends. I met my other two roommates once I got to my apartment: one from the Bronx and the other one from Puerto Rico. I learned with my roommates how to cook fried plantains, how to bend my ties and to understand the lyrics of reggueton songs. I was welcomed with open arms in my office. I worked alongside seven interns, most of them from Laredo, who taught me from how to prepare coffee to how to get to the Library of Congress for the underground tunnels. My boss, the Congressman, greeted me all the time and made sure I was learning. As part of my intern duties, I helped translate press releases, editorials, attended press conferences, congressional briefings and hearings, and helped as an interpreter at a meeting between the Department of Agriculture with Mexican authorities. Since few people in Congress know how to write in Spanish correctly, they constantly sent me from my office to help other legislative offices to translate documents. I was even able to translate a document for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In addition, I had the opportunity to go to the nomination hearing of Elena Kagan to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, administer Capitol tours, enter to the courtroom of the Supreme Court, attend a Senate hearing, enter to the gallery of the House of Representatives, attend a reception at the Inter-American Development Bank and … to close with a flourish ... go to the White House offices. To make things better, at the end of my internship on the Hill, the Congressman offered me to help him in the campaign for re-election back in the district. I go back home more than satisfied. I return with enthusiasm, with joy and with an eye focused in the future; a future with many opportunities, many doors, many options from where to choose from. I return with contacts, I return with friends, but above all, I return with enthusiasm to share my experience with my community. I return to encourage young people not only dream, but to plan. Not only to plan, but to act. Not only to act, but to apply.
Recuerdo el día en que me despedí de mi familia en el aeropuerto de San Antonio a las 5am sin ninguna idea de lo que me esperaba. En el vuelo de Chicago repentinamente conocí a quien seria uno de mis compañeros de cuarto y quien se convertiría en uno de mis mejores amigos. Al llegar al mi departamento conocí a mis otros dos compañeros de cuarto: uno del Bronx y el otro de Puerto Rico. Con mis compañeros aprendí a cocinar plátano frito, cómo doblar mis corbatas y a entender las canciones de reggueton. En mi oficina me recibieron con los brazos abiertos. Trabaje a lado de siete internos, su mayoría de Laredo, que me enseñaron desde como hacer café hasta como llegar a la Librería del Congreso por los túneles subterráneos. Mi jefe, el Congresista, siempre me saludaba y todo el tiempo se aseguraba que estuviera aprendiendo. Como parte de mis practicas, ayude a traducir comunicados de prensa, editoriales, asistir a conferencias de prensa, entrar a sesiones informativas en el Congreso y ayudar como interprete en una junta entre el Departamento de Agricultura con autoridades mexicanas. Como en el Congreso pocas personas saben escribir en español correctamente, constantemente me mandaban a ayudar a otras oficinas legislativas para traducir documentos. Inclusive pude traducir un documento para la líder de la Cámara de Representantes, Nancy Pelosi. Además, tuve la oportunidad de ir a la nominación de Elena Kagan para ser jueza de la Suprema Corte, administrar tours en el Capitolio, entrar al tribunal de la Suprema Corte de Justicia, asistir a una sesión del Senado, ingresar a la Cámara de Representantes, asistir a una recepción en el Banco Inter-Americano de Desarrollo y para cerrar con broche de oro... ir a las oficinas de la Casa Blanca. Por si fuera poco, a final de mis practicas en el Congreso, el Congresista me ofreció ayudarle en la campana de reelección en el distrito. Regreso a casa más que satisfecho. Regreso con entusiasmo, con alegría y con la vista puesta en el futuro. Un futuro amplio y con muchas oportunidades, muchas puertas, muchas opciones de donde elegir. Regreso con contactos, regreso con amigos, pero sobretodo, regreso con el entusiasmo de compartir mi experiencia con mi comunidad. Y regreso con ánimo para alentar a los jóvenes a no solo soñar pero planear. No solo planear, sino actuar. Y no solo actuar pero aplicar.
“L’Union Fait la Force,” which literally means Unity Makes Strength, is the phrase that flies the flag of the Haitian nation, which after being damaged by an earthquake, gave honor to this sentence by working side by side with the thousands of international volunteers who helped in the reconstruction work. Many times we need to build coalitions to achieve our goals. If we pay attention, we may find other groups that share similar goals to ours. If we unite, we can make our voices rebound and make ourselves be heard. To establish such coalitions, we need sincere conversations without prejudice. The interns from the Hispanic, African American and Asian American Institutes, were given the task of analyzing the education reform through a simulation in order to build coalitions. To do this, we had to get rid of our mutual cultural biases and analyze the needs of our communities. It was an enriching experience for me to interact and work along side many young leaders from other races. I realized that through commitment and compromise, we moved the project forward and brought our communities together to support the nomination of our candidate in the simulation.
“L’Union Fait la Force”, La Unión hace la Fuerza, es la frase que ondea en la bandera de la nación Haitiana, que después de haber sido arrasada por un terremoto, dio honor a dicha frase al trabajar lado a lado de los miles de voluntarios internacionales que ayudaron en las labores de reconstrucción. Muchas veces se necesita crear coaliciones para lograr nuestras metas. Si nos ponemos a buscar, encontraremos que talvez existen otros grupos con objetivos similares a los nuestros que, si nos unimos, podremos hacer retumbar nuestra voz y hacernos escuchar. Para el establecimiento dichas alianzas, se necesitan entablar conversaciones sinceras y sin prejuicios. En el ejercicio que realizamos los becarios de los institutos Hispano, Afro Americano y Asiático, se nos dio la tarea de analizar la reforma educativa mediante un simulacro con el objetivo de crear coaliciones. Para ello tuvimos que despejarnos de nuestros prejuicios culturales mutuos y analizar las necesidades de nuestras comunidades. Fue una experiencia enriquecedora para mí poder convivir con jóvenes lideres de otras culturas, Me di cuenta de que a través de compromisos y tratos, pudimos sacar adelante el proyecto y unir a nuestras comunidades para apoyar la candidatura de nuestro candidato ficticio en el simulacro.
Doing community service allows us to feel part of the community, forces us to leave our comfort zone and engage in different activities to help others. Having worked for a day as a volunteer in the construction area made me value the admirable work carried out by thousands of construction workers in the country. In addition, knowing that the houses built by volunteers will go to families that need them and interacting with other workers and volunteers in the construction of such houses made me feel part of the Washington community.
El hacer servicio comunitario nos permite sentirnos parte de la comunidad, nos obliga a salir de nuestra zona de confort e involucrarnos en diferentes actividades para ayudar a otros. El haber trabajado por un día como voluntario en el área de la construcción me hizo valorar la admirable labor que desempeñan miles de albañiles en el país. Además, el saber que las casas que construimos por voluntarios irán para familias de escasos recursos y el convivir con los trabajadores y los otros voluntarios en la construcción de dichas casas me hizo sentir parte de la comunidad de Washington.
Working in Congress allowed me to notice the ideological conflict between our representatives and how these differences can slow the legislative process. Elena Kagan's nomination for Supreme Court justice is not an exception. Senate Judiciary Committee, comprising of members from both parties, bombarded Kagan with all kinds of questions to make sure she was the indicated person to occupy the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, which should be stressed that it is a job for life. However, Kagan responded by saying "The court must respect the decisions of the American people." This comment rebounded in the headlines and aroused the discontent of those who believe that the court should simply interpret the law and render its verdict. Even though she served as dean of Harvard Law School, many in the judiciary committee consider that Kagan does not have the necessary experience to fill the position because she has no experience as a judge in a lower court. However, this comment shows the human side of Kagan. It shows that the law is complex, that life is not black and white only and the court must analyze each case thoroughly and realize that their decisions will affect the lives of millions of people.
El trabajar en el Congreso de EEUU me ha permitido notar los contrastes ideológicos entre nuestros representantes y cómo esas diferencias pueden desacelerar el proceso legislativo. La nominación de Elena Kagan para jueza de la Suprema Corte no se queda atrás. Senadores del comité Judicial, compuesto por miembros de ambos partidos, bombardearon a Kagan con todo tipo de preguntas para asegurarse que ella fuera la indicada ocupar el puesto vacante en la Suprema Corte, que cabe recalcar que es un puesto de por vida. Sin embargo, ante las interrogantes del comité judicial, Kagan respondió diciendo “La corte debe respetar las decisiones del pueblo estadounidense”. Este comentario rebotó en los titulares de los periódicos y despertó el descontento de quienes creen que la corte simplemente debe interpretar la ley y dictar su veredicto. A pesar de fungir como decana de la Escuela de Leyes de Harvard, muchos en el comité judicial consideran que Kagan no tiene la experiencia necesaria para ocupar el puesto ya que no tiene experiencia como jueza en una corte menor. Sin embargo, este comentario muestra el lado humano de Kagan. Muestra que la ley es compleja, que la vida no es de blanco y negro y que por consiguiente la corte debe analizar cada caso meticulosamente ya que sus decisiones repercutirán en la vida de millones de personas.
Museums, monuments, and embassies decorate the District of Columbia that, with its Greek-Roman columns and pilasters, attracts the curiosity of its tourists and demand the respect of its visitors. As a father who hugs his children, Washington DC welcomed us with that humidity that characterizes it. Thirty Latino students from all over the country united to learn together, laugh together, live together, explore together, and discover together. The first week was full with panels, workshops, and preparation seminars. I learned from how to use utensils properly in a gala event, to how to write properly for Congress. Always surrounded by prepared people ready and willing to help us. I felt as part of a new family, the CHCI family.
Museos, monumentos y embajadas decoran el Distrito de Columbia, que, con sus columnas y capiteles grecorromanos, atrae la curiosidad de los turistas y exige el respeto de los viajantes. Como el padre que abraza a sus hijos, Washington DC nos dio la bienvenida con ese calor húmedo que lo caracteriza. Treinta estudiantes Latinos de todos los rincones del país reunidos para aprender juntos, reír juntos, vivir juntos, explorar juntos y descubrir juntos. La primer semana estuvo llena de paneles, talleres y módulos de preparación. Aprendí desde como usar los cubiertos en cenas de gala, hasta como escribir apropiadamente para el Congreso. Siempre acompañados con gente preparada y contenta de ayudarnos. Me sentí miembro de una nueva familia, la familia CHCI.
When a person is a leader of a community he or she must remember that there are other groups or people that want to solve their own problems. Attempting to solve the problems in the Latino communities by establishing cultural and English learning programs at schools would definitely help the Hispanic communities, but it can alienate the other communities. For instance, if many different programs that are aimed at increasing Latino English speaking skills were enacted at schools, other people might become angry because their tax dollars are contributing towards something that they feel doesn’t benefit them. Thus, our task at the Tri-caucus Youth Summit this past Friday was to build coalitions among several groups in a similar situation in a fictional town. In my opinion, I believe that enacting several non-profit programs that help naturalize eligible immigrants (the Latino and Asian communities) and programs that help register people to vote (from Latino, Asian, and Black communities) would greatly benefit everybody. In addition, having a candidate that represent all minorities, and not just one specific type of minority, would be a great way to bring everyone together. Having candidates that just worry about their own community maintains a division between other groups.
Giving back to the community through various projects are some of the most important things that I have ever done. Giving back does not only benefit the person that the organization a person is working with seeks to help, but it also benefits the volunteers. I believe that the community service experience can expand a person’s mind. It adds knowledge. For instance, how can a person, such as a politician, advocate for or against benefits that help low-income households without ever volunteering at a soup-kitchen, homeless shelter, or even at habitat for humanity? A strong leader will know, from experience, what it’s like at ground zero. Next, volunteering for an organization will encourage many others to volunteer as well, especially those who needed the help in the first place. I know this, because I come from a low income family that needed help when I was younger. I am very thankful to the organizations that helped my family growing up. I always feel an indescribable feeling every time I volunteer for a charitable organization, because I know that I am helping someone the same way that others helped me.
Last Friday, July 2nd, we all went to help Habitat for Humanity at a build site. Honestly, it was a very rewarding feeling because I knew that I was doing something special for people that I might never meet. During the course of the day I realize that I was not a construction type and I gained more respect for people that choose to work in the field of building. I would tell young Latinos that they should give back to their communities because life is a big circle. Sometimes you are on top and there might be times when you are at the bottom. This can mean economically, emotionally, etc. As future leaders, they have to invest in their communities so it can flourish and become beautiful. If not the cycle will continue and there will be no positivity.