August 17, 2012
Simon Bordwin, Public Policy Intern: My Summer with GLSEN
As a student at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, I often feel removed from the real world. Throughout the year, I have to remind myself that simply coexisting among my peers in the small bubble of college is insufficient; my education serves a greater purpose than intellectual stimulation. Only when I look outward am I putting it to use. Living in Washington, DC has been eye-opening in and of itself. Here, it is impossible not to feel completely immersed in the real world; people in DC exhibit a heightened sense of awareness that doesn’t exist elsewhere. Interning in DC this summer, let alone for GLSEN, has thus been an exceptionally rewarding experience, only enhanced by the city’s environment. Not only have I been able to work alongside experienced GLSEN staff-members, but I’ve been included in meetings with dozens of DC’s most influential, progressive think-tanks, advocacy groups, and public policy organizations as well. Never before had I known quite how many groups existed, all of which seem to be working towards a common goal from a diverse array of perspectives. While the sheer quantity of organizations would sometimes seem overwhelming or even comical, I was nonetheless privileged to see them at work in coalition with one another and admire their productivity in the face of DC’s bureaucracy.
While at GLSEN, I wrote letters nearly every day: to legislators, their staffers, to partner organizations, prospective partner organizations, to cosponsors, and target cosponsors. I surprisingly never got tired of writing these letters, as I came to realize that they actually mattered in the political world, and instead saw them as substantive contributions to GLSEN’s legislative goals. These letters ultimately provided me with my largest take-away of the summer: our democratic system has remained relatively intact for the last 236 some-odd years – when I want to voice my concerns in an email, or meet with a legislator or his or her staffer, someone will read what I’ve written or listen to what I’ve said, and even respond. While some obstacles do admittedly stand between my voice and the Senate floor, constituents have the ability to influence their congressional representatives. I know that my realization may seem a bit obvious, as this is the definition of a democratic system of representation, but until recently I had always dismissed the notion that this was a relatively accurate reflection of reality. After arranging a meeting with Senator Collins with surprising ease, and then again with Senator Snowe’s staffer in Maine, I no longer had the cynical attitude of powerlessness that adults often resort to in the face of government affairs. It may be due to my own naiveté, but I’ve come out of this summer feeling a bit more positive (despite the fact that this congress was least productive in our nation’s history).
This internship has consequently left me with an empowered sense of self and community, as well as the sense that when I graduate this coming year, my coursework in Gender and Women’s Studies can transform into a real career path. While I’m not quite sure what I will be doing in a year’s time, I’m confident that GLSEN will have shaped whatever decision it is that I make. So thank you GLSEN and the public policy team for a great summer and furthermore, for a future of possibilities this experience has inspired.
Simon will be attending a meeting in Senator Olympia Snowe’s Portland, ME office to lobby for the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
Take action to create safer schools for all students. Ask your members of Congress to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act!