OutPower

People and Public Service – Cody Baynori

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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Public service is not easy—it can be heartbreaking. As I begin to focus on my career, I know that I want to help those who have been brought up similarly to myself. I still remember the year that the subsidized housing developments in my hometown—designed for low-income tenants— were demolished. My aunt, cousins, and many of my friends lost their homes. What made this occurrence all the more tragic is that these developments were destroyed for no particular reason. I grew up in a run-down apartment that was caked with mildew and overran with bedbugs and even now I have no true home. I live in university housing during the academic year and whatever space that I can during the summer. The harsh reality is that, within our nation, I am still one of the lucky ones.

While I had once thought that advocating for change within the government would produce the most positive change, I now believe that the individual is too often forgotten within the political machine. My ambitions, per se, have not diminished—only the route which I have chosen to direct them towards. I believe that the most influential work starts closer to the ground. Every role I have taken on has been in the interest of the community around me. My position on Capitol Hill is no different. Every phone call, every memorandum, every cosponsorship request, and every word I write for the Congressman are conducted with the lives of individuals in mind. If a task does not contribute to an overall positive impact on the people, it is not one that I will agree to take on. If I can even make the slightest difference for those who have lived as I have—I will have a fulfilled life. 

I must acknowledge, however, that I am aware that this line of work is not able to lend a helping hand in every regard. Working on Capitol Hill, I have witnessed how bureaucracy can leave an individual in shambles. I spoke with students who were terrified after the Uvalde shooting. I spoke with people on the verge of losing their homes. I spoke with constituents through the fallout of Dobbs v. Jackson. I spoke with people who were unintelligible due to frustration, sadness, or fear. It was all the more difficult having been in similar positions before.

When coming into this internship, I had a single goal in mind: to see how the legislative branch of the Federal Government works in action. My takeaway is that it “works” quite slowly in a manner that is incredibly disconnected from the people. And there is only so much influence that one member of Congress has, let alone an intern. There is a lot of work to be done and now is not the time to let the fire die. Change will come through all kinds of public service from all kinds of different people. It will come from those who look like me and equally those who do not. Representation is power, but power is meaningless if it is not used to change the system that caused a need for representation in the first place.

With what I have learned during this experience, I hope that I can move forward as an advocate for the people. Whether I find myself working in a school classroom, behind a library desk, employed by a federal agency, or, perhaps, back in an office on the hill, I will always remember that the role of a public servant is to aide the individual. Progress begins on the ground.