Lauren Bishop interned at the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence during the 2016 Fall Term with support from Mr. E. John Rosenwald Jr. '52 Public Affairs Fund. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.
During the fall of 2016 I had the distinct privilege of interning in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence under President Barack Obama. As an intern in the Hard Mail division of the Mail Analysis team, I read and responded to hundreds of letters a day on behalf of the President in order to address the concerns of the American people. I was also able to give voice to compelling writers by flagging their letters for staff members who would review and then place them in the President’s nightly briefing book. Ten letters a day were chosen, encompassing a range of topics penned by writers throughout America in order to inform the President of the public’s opinion. Furthermore, I coordinated with staff to compose an internal compilation of letters for relevant policy offices and recorded the opinions of the American people during shifts on the White House comment line.
Through this internship I had the unparalleled opportunity to not only see America through a lens unfiltered by the media or private interest, but also help hundreds of Americans gain access to the resources they need from veteran’s benefits to healthcare information. While reading these letters I found myself opening up to a truth I thought I understood but had never fully grasped: There is more to a story than a single opinion, and if you can understand a person’s motive without judgement than you may be able to fix the underlying issue. I realized that a true public servant doesn’t just listen to the frustration at the surface, but has a duty to investigate into the root of the problem in order to solve the greater issue and not just the symptoms. As a result, this internship has renewed my commitment to public service and broadened my understanding of the people I wish to one day serve.
What I believe makes the White House internship program under President Obama stand out among other programs is their focus on education as well as direct interaction with senior level officials. During our weekly speaker series, we were able to hear from staff members at the AP (Assistant to the President) level which is the highest ranking for a political appointee within the White House. Having the opportunity to speak with and ask questions of renowned staffers like Valerie Jerrett and David Simas as well as principles President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Their candid comments on issues from the election to women’s rights and how to be an effective public servant will stay with me as I pursue future endeavors.
Additionally, the grant donated by the Mr. E. John Rosenwald Jr. ’52 Public Affairs Fund through the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, allowed me to work and live as an unpaid intern in Washington D.C., a city that would have been far too expensive for me to reside in without assistance for the duration of my internship.