Intern Rubs Elbows on Capitol Hill

LALA ASHEGHIE
El Vaquero Staff Writer

For some, “Schoolhouse Rock” was perhaps the most intelligible explanation of the process of law-making. Other than that, students usually suffer through incomprehensible political science and government classes, never fully grasping the actual function of a senator, representative, or a congressional committee. For one former GCC college student, the workings of American democracy became much more clear when he started working on Capitol Hill this past summer.

Washington, D.C. leaped out of postcards and history books for Mike Gedjeyan this summer.

Majoring in Economics at UCSD’s Thurgood Marshall College, Gedjeyan was one of nine students accepted to the Armenian National Committee of America’s Leo Sarkisian summer internship.

The program, which was started in 1984, allows for a handful of students to travel to the capital as interns for eight weeks, working on the language and promotion of legislation while collaborating directly with congressional representatives and their staffers.

While in the nation’s capital, Gedjeyan found himself standing in front of the White House, buying groceries in the Watergate building, lunching in the congressional dining room with California members of Congress: Reps. Grace Napolitano, D-Pomona and Montebello; Adam Schiff, D-Glendale and Pasadena; and David Dreier, R- La Crescenta and Montrose.

Gedjieyan described these experiences as ” surreal.”

All summer long, the intern walked the halls of Congress, met with various Congress members and their staffers, and frolicked through the streets of Washington, all while playing a role in the lawmaking process. And, he insists that the $.10 buffalo wings on “Intern Nights” (Tuesdays and Thursdays) were not the highlight of his trip.

Instead, the Washington acolyte explained how a meeting with Dr. Alan Greenspan would qualify as ” the best part of the whole thing.” After sitting some five hours through Chairman Greenspan’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Gedjeyan made his way through a small crowd, approached Greenspan and initiated a brief, though certainly memorable conversation with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

But Gedjeyan’s internship entailed much more than mingling with political honchos. The students worked at the office between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Besides a few organized outings on the weekends, they were free to do as they pleased the rest of the time. It was in the Armenian National Committee of America’s office, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, where Gedjeyan and his fellow interns worked on specific Armenian National Committee of America projects and actual legislation.

For instance, House Resolution 528, or the Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Armenia bill, will establish ongoing trade relations between the Republic of Armenia and the United States.

Although this bill has not yet been approved, it is expected to pass.

Interns also worked on the Genocide Bill (H.R. 193), which was introduced into Congress by Armenian Caucus Co-chairmen Frank Pallone and Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, along with George Radanovich and Schiff of California. This bill calls for the recognition of the genocides in Armenia, Rwanda and Cambodia in an effort to prevent such atrocities in the future.

On Tuesday and Thursday nights, the interns participated in lectures and discussions designed to correspond with their work with the Armenian National Committee. Topics included ” The Geopolitics of Armenia and ” Combating Genocide Denial.”

For all the time and effort he invested in this internship program, Gedjeyan was excited about the payback. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the project, Gedjeyan said, was that ” you got to work on issues of concern to the Armenian American community and you got to do that on Capitol Hill, which was an incredible experience.” Moreover, Gedjeyan and his fellow interns were given the opportunity to participate within the clockworks of the American democratic system. Gedjeyan explains how great it felt to finally ” see how that [the democratic process] works in the real world, you know, not just in books and on TV.”

While he works to earn his bachelor’s degree at UCSD, Gedjeyan anticipates his return to Washington. “My dream is to work in the Federal Reserve, but that probably won’t happen,” he said. Then he reconsidered, suggesting that he can probably start out with an internship there. In any case, he is sure he wants to return to Capitol Hill and continue working in American politics.