Week two has been exceptional. This externship has taken me all over the city, to events that range from delightful to inspirational, and has allowed me to meet a countless number of individuals whose achievements are astounding.
One thing it has taught me, though, is that DC moves on a different time scale from the rest of the world. Change can be an excruciatingly slow process here. From the outside looking in, it sometimes appears like nothing is happening (see: popular rhetoric). Then, once you dive in headfirst to DC you realize that about a million things are happening all at one time. Like most things, the reality of Washington progress lies somewhere in between those two extremes. Yes, it often takes years to pass a bill and make a change BUT those years often allow for research to be done, important discussions to be had, and preparations to be made for the impending change. With America’s culture of breakneck efficiency it can be really hard for us to accept and appreciate debate and deliberation. The reality is that these concepts are essential parts of the legislative process because the decisions impact millions of people. Often laws passed in a huge rush can have disastrous unintended consequences because proper analysis was not done before the decision was made. So the next time you hear someone complaining about “do-nothing Washington” research the topic and see if there have been hearings or if there is ongoing research being done on the issue. Chances are there’s work being done, it’s just not work that makes for an excellent headline. If there isn’t, then you have the perfect opportunity to write to your Congressman/woman to get the process moving. :)
In this externship, we’ve been trying to get a handle on some of the big issues facing Washington currently, such as the rising cost of prescription drugs (ie. Epipens). On this issue alone there have been at least 4 congressional hearings in the last two weeks and several panels at policy institutes with industry experts. The public is crying out for immediate action and lawmakers are trying to figure out the best way forward. It may seem like nothing is being done on the issue, but the truth is there’s no simple answer/solution that will magically fix the problem. This could be said of a lot of issues facing our country currently. The good news that I can report from DC is that our legislators are trying to find solutions and there are a lot of brilliant policy analysts who are providing insights. I feel incredibly lucky that this externship has allowed me to see these processes occur and learn from some of these experts, even if it means I have to operate on “DC time” which is difficult for my type A personality to handle at times. For now I’m just trying to learn how to take a step back, smell the roses, and enjoy the journey. The incredible beauty of the DC area has definitely helped.
So in summary of my rambling thoughts I leave you with this quote:
“Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.”
-Atifete Jahjaga, first female president of the Republic of Kosovo