On June 29 my roommate Tessa and I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to go, as we called it, Kaganing. For Tessa, a recent graduate of Western University in Washington, and for me, the prospect of witnessing part of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings was almost too exciting to handle. Determined to score a ticket to the hearings, we planned to camp out in front of the Senate buildings.
The queue of people awaiting tickets to the hearings almost resembled those in front of box offices selling Lady Gaga tickets. But instead of assorted kink, the young people in line to see Kagan were wearing khakis and button downs. Nearly every person in line looked under 30, and a good number were a part of the army of interns who march to D.C. each summer.
“There’s something that’s happening every day in Washington,” said Deidre Martinez, director of Penn’s Fels Institute of Government and Penn in Washington — a summer-long program for Penn students living and working in the D.C. area. The program arranges a one-on-one mentorship with Penn alumni and organizes networking and speaker events to expose Penn students to opportunities beyond those offered by their internships.
Interns seemed especially eager to take advantage of their opportunities on this particular day.
Behind us in line, a group of college students were in a heated discussion about which universities’ degrees would look the best to potential Capitol Hill employers. In front of us, a Senate intern debated whether he should stow his briefcase away in his office before entering the hearing room, where laptop bags were prohibited.
Whereas the official rules permitted members of the public — such as Tessa and I — to silently shuffle into the back row of the hearing room, only to be kicked out after 20 minutes, a few lucky interns managed to get a closer look at the proceedings.
Rising College senior Daniel Rudofsky scored tickets to the first half of the June 30 hearing through his PIW mentor, a Penn alumnus who happened to be a Chief of Counsel on the Judiciary Committee.
“I was there for Senator [Amy] Klobuchar’s question about Twilight,” Rudofsky said, referencing the Minnesota senator’s inquiry about the infamous Edward v. Jacob case, or The Vampire v. The Werewolf. (Ever cautious, Kagan refused to comment on future cases).
Overall, “she tried to be very boring” Rudofsky said — part of a strategy of equivocation. Because Kagan doesn’t seem to have offended anybody, Rudofsky predicts that she will be confirmed.
Rising College junior Sanjay Hariharan, who also attended part of the hearings, agreed. “It’s strange because I feel like now [the hearing] is more of a formality” he said. “She’s not going to say anything that’s going to change people’s minds.”
Hariharan worked as an intern at Senator Russ Feingold’s office. Although he wasn’t directly involved with the hearings, he had the opportunity to talk to the law students helping Feingold (D-Wis.) prepare, and sat in for part of the 2nd day of hearings.
Amazed as I was at the opportunities that my fellow interns had managed to score, between Penn alumnus and Pensylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, and Kagan’s academic background and deanship at fellow ivy league Harvard, Kagan didn’t seem too far removed from Penn.
“I think I have a good relationship with her, ” said Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts of Kagan, having interacted with her in various professional circumstances. Although he usually doesn’t give his opinions on political appointees, Fitts said he made an exception for Kagan, signing a letter of support for her along with other law school deans.
Critics of Kagan might point to her lack of judicial experience, but “you have to credit her as being one of the most effective academic leaders in the country” Fitts said. “That is her great success.”
For the students from Penn and top universities around the country, their academic success, along with a pair of fresh-pressed khakis, had landed them an internship in D.C., which was a ticket to witness history.
Who knows, a couple of the upstart interns in line with me might even end up making history.
To make it in Washington, there’s a long ladder to climb, according to Martinez. “An internship — that’s the first rung on the ladder.”Comments powered by Disqus
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