For PAAIA CHIP Fellow, the Curtain of Stereotypes Has Been Pulled Back

By: Hadi Sedigh

March 19, 2013, Washington, D.C. – For the past three months, I have worked as a legislative fellow in the office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who represents the 9th District of New York in the House of Representatives. The support of PAAIA, its Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP), and Dr. Akbar Ghahary has been an instrumental part of what has been and continues to be a tremendous learning experience. I hope that by providing an account of what I have taken away from this experience thus far, I can encourage other Iranian Americans to apply for CHIP internships, and to embark on what is sure to be an exciting few months in Congress.

Working in a congressional office has been an enriching experience in many ways.  I have been able to improve my research and writing through constant practice of those skills in preparing memos and reports for the legislative staff, as well as talking points and speeches for Congresswoman Clarke. I have also become familiar with the process of creating and introducing laws – from formulating a solution to an issue that affects constituents, to assessing the most politically salient way to achieve that solution through legislation, to raising support for that legislation among other congressional offices.

Another result of spending my days on Capitol Hill is a newfound appreciation of the American political process. The curtain of stereotypes has been pulled back to reveal a multitude of individuals who are dedicated to serving the interests of the public, working within a system of government that affords them the means to do so. This includes many members of Congress who largely sacrifice their personal lives to represent their constituents in Washington, staffers who work long hours behind the scenes to facilitate this representation, and organizations such as PAAIA that function as voices of various groups within this process.

An appreciation for this sort of representative process produces, naturally, a conviction that we as Iranian Americans must become more involved in it at all levels, so that our voices are better heard and our concerns more fully addressed. We are fortunate enough to have many friends in the halls of Congress, but it is rational to assume that the interests of a group will always be driven most passionately and effectively by its members. As such, increased engagement with, and presence in, Congress will help to solidify and promote our place in America today and in future generations.

I am fortunate to have this opportunity to work in Congresswoman Clarke’s office, and I cannot overstate the value of PAAIA’s support. Through CHIP and PAAIA NexGen, I have formed great friendships and have met numerous Iranian Americans who have helped me become acclimated to Capitol Hill by enthusiastically sharing experiences, connections, and advice. I look forward to doing my part to provide the same sort of support to future CHIP interns and NexGenners, and I encourage all Iranian American students and recent graduates to get involved and take advantage of this robust and invaluable network.

Click here to learn more about PAAIA’s Capitol Hill Internship Program.

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