OutPower

10 Things I Love About D.C. – Connor Lee

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

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On the first day of our Victory Congressional Internship (VCI), we were all asked to share a fun fact about ourselves. Mine was that my all-time favorite movie is 10 Things I Hate About You, the 1999 classic starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.  

While there have certainly been bumps in the road and some devastating developments since arriving in Washington, D.C.—the Dobbs decision and the recent instances of gun violence nationwide, to name a few—if I focus on the silver linings, there are 10 things I have found that I truly love about D.C.: 

I love running past the monuments at night,

and the Amanda Gorman mural that reminds us, “there is always light.”

I love my coworkers in the Office of Congressman Casten

and, I can’t say I love the heat, but the warmth and radiance of my fellow VCIs? That I will bask in.

I love the leaders who call out inaction

and, even more, having a front row seat to Congress in action

I love the weekend brunch scene,

and the receptions with keynote speakers.

I love how you can run into Matthew McConaughey

and on the same day, rub elbows with Madam Speaker. 

But mostly, I love the way I don’t hate DC. 

Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all. 

Of course, this poem only scratches the surface of the people and opportunities that have made the past six weeks so special. But I would like to expand on a few of these lines. Specifically, I did not come to Washington, D.C. to experience inaction, but rather, I came here to experience Congress in action—and to do everything in my power to make an impact. At times, this has felt like a tall order. What am I—a twenty-year-old college student who has been in D.C. for just short of two months—to do about the formidable challenges that our country faces? How can we—a group of sixteen queer undergraduate students in the VCI program—precipitate much-needed change and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in government? How can I make my mark in just eight weeks?

I have come to the realization that making meaningful connections and contributions to the spaces I am in is perhaps the most powerful way I can make my mark on Washington, D.C.—my new home away from home. With this perspective in mind, I have made a deliberate effort to connect and contribute. I have connected with numerous mentors and leaders who work in offices I aspire to—from the White House to the Department of Transportation. I have contributed to a Congressional office through my work on briefing memos, phone calls, constituent correspondence, and a long-term project focused on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In a time when “Don’t Say Gay” bills are being passed and women’s rights are being stripped away, I have used my diverse background as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to voice my concerns for marginalized people. I have squirmed my way through a crowd to talk with Speaker Pelosi, and I have made lifelong friends in my workplace. 

Most of all, I have capitalized on the opportunities that the LGBTQ Victory Institute has afforded me and found that there is much to love in a city like Washington, D.C.—even when there is still much room for improvement.