The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights/The Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern Experience
By the Summer 2008 Interns
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. It is a hub of activity for politically conscious individuals and organizations looking to make a difference for disenfranchised communities and for all Americans. We, the intern class of summer 2008, were fortunate to spend several months in the center of all this work, helping like-minded people work to build a better, fairer, more just America.
What We Do
The typical intern day begins with "buzz clipping" – basically, searching for stories in the morning paper related to civil rights and equal opportunity. After tagging each article by subject matter (e.g., "affirmative action" or "criminal justice"), they show up on a news ticker on the Leadership Conference/Education Fund website.
Once clipping is done, however, there is tremendous variety each day in what we are asked to do. Frequently, we are sent to Capitol Hill to cover a House or Senate hearing on one of our key issues. Often, we are asked to write a story on these hearings that will eventually be published as a feature article on the website or even picked up by other organizations' web sites.
Other projects include writing research memos, editing Leadership Conference-commissioned reports, tabling at progressive events, attending coalition meetings, and searching for potential grant donors to the organization. Since we were working with top experts in our fields, we received valuable feedback while also getting the opportunity to contribute to causes we care about.
However, the highlight of our intern term was the event we planned, organized, and hosted for other interns working in D.C. We were responsible for the whole proceeding, from beginning to end – from choosing the topic (the transition to digital television), sending invitations, writing the agenda, developing materials, securing catering and setting up the venue.
Leadership Conference/Education Fund connections made it possible to provide top-notch speakers from both inside and outside the organization (and this summer, two interns were featured with speaking roles themselves). This event is run by each intern class every term and is a regular feature on the calendar for many of our member groups.
The D.C. Experience
Leadership Conference/Education Fund interns come from across the country and around the world – the six of us this summer hail from Maryland (two of us, actually), Ohio, Florida, California, and the United Kingdom. However, we came to this internship united in our desire to see the dream of civil rights come to life - not just in our community - but worldwide.
The Leadership Conference/Education Fund internship gave us the chance to see how the fight for civil rights plays out in the heart of our nation's capital. And the internship committee ensured that all of us got to experience not just The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund, but Washington, D.C., as a whole.
Of course, some of that was part of the job – as we regularly headed off to Congress for hearings or press events, attended the launches of new progressive campaigns, or helped staff rallies, events and marches. But The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund also gave us a taste of D.C. beyond our day's work.
From a tour of the Capital Building with a personal meeting with Senator Kennedy's staff, to a Washington Nationals game, to a trip to the Newseum, there was a lot planned and a lot to see. By the end of the summer, everyone became a veteran of the town: David was able to find his way back to the office from the depths of a Senate press chamber, Katie knew the fastest way to reach the "Senate Swamp", and Jon could hail a taxi like an old D.C. hand.
Putting It All Together
One of the defining features of the Leadership Conference/Education Fund internship was that our work had real results that you could see. It wasn’t mindless filing and filling boxes (well, most of the time anyway). The articles we wrote were put on a Web site read by thousands of people each day. Our research was deployed in the ongoing fight to defend equal opportunity programs across the country. Our advice was taken into account when setting policy proposals read by the heaviest hitters in Washington.
The Leadership Conference is one of the most important and influential coalitions working in D.C. And thus, being a part of that family meant being plugged into the gears that keep Washington running, and that move America towards justice. This internship isn't, in other words, just a way to pass the summer months until school starts. It is for people who are serious about working hard and watching that work yield results.
This report was written and submitted by David Schraub. David hails from Maryland and is currently attending law school at University of Chicago in the fall.