Where to Begin – Ben Schuster

The past 8 weeks have been nothing short of life-changing. I now have a better understanding of how Congress works, how truly diverse and inspired the LGBTQ+ community, and the work that needs to be done to push our country in the right direction. This experience has taught me to challenge myself, open up about my own life experiences, and listen to those around me more fully. This summer, I’ve grown in immeasurable ways and have begun to realize my own place within the world. If not for the Victory Congressional Internship and my experience in Senator Doug Jones’s office this summer, I would not have this level of clarity, for which I am extremely grateful.  

Living alongside 11 other interns in the George Washington dorms this summer, I met some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life, many of whom I am sure will be lifelong friends.  

Two VCIs Ben and Gus pose with the Don't Get Mad, Get Elected and Victory Signs

One of the main takeaways I’ve learned over the course of this experience is that policy at the federal level truly affects us all. At the end of the day, it comes down to the complex relationship between intent and impact. Some policies and public decisions have intended goals, though all have unintended consequences that may have negative impacts across all of society. It’s something I began to learn this past semester while in a class at Michigan’s Ford School: every policy has unintended consequences, no exceptions. It’s this reality that faces lawmakers at every level: from your local school board all the way to Congress, the Supreme Court, and White House. Policies have real impacts on people, and we cannot forget that. We can’t, and sadly, I think we’ve forgotten. 

I think a lot, now, about what I want to do with my life and in my career. Mayor Parker shared her own experiences as Mayor of Houston and a lot of what she shared resonates with me.  Doesn’t it make sense to work at the level where you can understand your constituents, equipped with firsthand awareness of the issues they face daily? I think about how I want to leave my impact on the world, especially on LGBTQ+ and voter rights policy, and I can’t think of a better place to start than at the local level.