Leadership Development: An Insight into Friday Programming

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

A large part of the Victory Congressional Internship and its goals, is Friday programing. Each Friday of the 8 weeks interning Capitol Hill, interns gather at the Victory Office around 8 am to start a day of varied site visits to organizations and meetings with policy leaders throughout D.C. Over the past 7 Fridays, the cohort has visited and met with leaders from the Center for American Progress, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Planned Parenthood, Georgetown Law School, and The National Center for Transgender Equality – to name a few. In addition to site visits, we have been taught valuable workshops on professional development, tools for self-care, and accountability between each other and our program director.

Reflecting on the past 7 weeks, it is easy to recognize the importance of these Fridays to our overall experience in Washington D.C. Speaking to experts at non-profit organizations, seeing the work of advocacy outside of the hill, and forming better relationships with one is other – was a part of the result. Leadership development came as a result of observing leaders roles in organizations, learning how teams work together to maximize the capabilities of others, and how to grow personally in the professional setting. Visiting the Center for American Progress, we learned about the power of storytelling to advocate for policies that affect individual lives. A look into the tech world at the Internet & Television Association (NCTA), gave us a new perspective to how the world of politics overlaps almost every career field.

At the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), we spoke former Chief of Staff to the 22nd Secretary of the Army, Alex Wagner. Currently AIA’s Vice President, Wagner’s experience has ranged from nuclear proliferation tactics and strategy, drones, landmines and autonomous technologies, political negotiations, and Arms Control. We learned details about institutional change, inside look at the Department of Defense during the Obama administration, and career trajectory advice. “If I could leave you with one tidbit of advice…”, Wagner said, “…do not be afraid to take risks in order to do the thing you love”. As only one example of a typical Friday, the advice we received was not short in quantity, nor was the quality of each professional site visit diminished.

A few highlights that emphasized personal and professional growth, was the self-care session held at the Victory Office, the constructive feedback from mentors, and volunteer work. Through these conversations and sessions, we learned that self-care often means choosing your battles and remembering to be self-aware in the process. As LGBTQ students working inside the halls where legislation is written, there are multiple personal challenges to overcome in the professional environment of the office. Often, it takes discernment and maturity to understand when to not let personal emotions or experience affect your judgement or attitude in the office. This occurs often when the Congressional member we work for makes decisions that directly contradict with our personal beliefs, or even with our personal identity as a minority. From feedback from mentors and guidance on self-care, we began to understand that just as it is important to keep personal views private at times, it is equally important to know when there is an opportunity to communicate our thoughts, or when to find an ally to help our make our statements known.

Our cohort has a unique perspective, and its importance should not be minimized; even as interns, we should believe strongly in the power of our own voices. Our experiences in the bodies or lives of marginalized identities gives us partiality to defend human suffering and leaves us with a conviction for the rights of others that is often stronger than others.

Just as our disposition as minorities gives us these insights and convictions, it also makes us vulnerable to discrimination or insensitivity. The self-care session provided us with tools of how to revitalize ourselves and realize our humanity as we immerse ourselves in the center of the U.S. Congress.

Overall, I cannot overemphasize the importance of each Friday Programming that we as Victory Congressional Interns participated in. It gave us a sense of community, provided us with connections, taught us about spheres of policy work, and most importantly gave us the tools we needed as we worked on Capitol Hill.