Live in the Moment

My time in DC has been marked by periods full of fun and learn yet also filled with the trials and tribulation of being an unpaid intern. After reading the poem “Two Tramps in the Mud” and reviewing my time in the internship I think it hits at the importance to work in a job you are passionate and feel you make a difference in doing based on the lines below.

 

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done

I greatly enjoyed my time in internship and being on the hill has allowed me to view the legislative process through a first-hand experience. Yet at I was frustrated with how idle/ seemingly meaningless my work in the office felt at certain times and days. The author talks in the moment about admiring the beauty of his situation. In my view this relates to how even in these moments of idleness we need to stop and admire the real beauty of the ability to be in DC and explore everything it has to offer. We as a western society are taught that we always need to be go go go never stop and promote the most worker productivity as possible, yet in doing so we drain ourselves of the joy of our careers and daily actions. After the reading the poem there is a difference in viewing as craft as necessity and a joy, and the vitalness to tie these two together to promote positive change. Furthermore, relating my time in DC to the poem I thinks it key to recognize the line is the deed ever really done. We as a society often focus on just getting to the next milestone yet is the deed ever really done? Making positive change is importance, but there will always be new issues, ideas, and problems that need to be addressed, if we focus on just solving these as a checklist we rob ourselves of our fulfillment.

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Discipline

One of the highlights of my time in DC has been the ability to explore my morals and life choices and see how they can help me to form a successful career. Some of the stellar aid I have received on the journey has been from a book provided to the capital scholars entitled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg Mckeown.

Before my reading of the literature, my understanding of essentialism was that it was simply a way to promote a narrow mindset closed to new beliefs and ideas and only focused on ensuring efficiency at all cost. Furthermore, I pictured essentialism as minimalistic as well, cutting off everything in order to promote one common goal. Although essentialism can be confused with these ideals, there is much more to the ideology. One of the books key lessons focuses on the fact that instead of balancing numerous things at once and stressing about how you can possibly get everything done, it is important to weigh the trade-off and ask if you can go above and beyond expectations on something that will have a greater trade-off. In my personal life as is common with most college students, students attempt to balance 50,000 things at once and lose quality and ignore what is important. For instance, in my life, I often stress about numerous projects or social situations that don’t deserve my time, when I can focus on a school project and make it something where I learn a lot and am extremely proud of. The ability to say no instead of to the non-essential and attempting to be a people pleaser is key to being effective and promoting success and maintain professional relations and is something I strive to get better about.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg Mckeown also teaches the idea of being present in the here and now and allowing this ideology to promote further efficiency and success. Not that it is bad to focus on how to create a happy future, but as I know I do, when we focus so much on our future, we rob ourselves of the ability to enjoy and prosper in the here and now. Looking towards the future is excellent, but in order to get to the future, you must be able to work in the present in front of the other and get there. This is also something I struggle with and am hoping to incorporate this idea more into my daily life.

    My week at work so far has wonderful and eye-opening as always. I sadly missed Monday as I was not feeling great but came back Tuesday and was ready to work. Tuesday, I had the pleasure to attend two hearing, the first being about the Future of Fossil Fuel a hearing hosted by the Science, Space, and Technology committee. The hearing focused on how to create cleaner coal and oil. While I believed the science of carbon capture and carbon scrubbers are wonderful, it ignores the fact that carbon is not the way of the future and prevents investment in energy. One thing I also learned about was the real economic powerhouse that infrastructure can be. On a hearing about a new proposed I11 freeway, I was thankful to attend on the behalf of my office, I learned that the roughly 3-billion-dollar program could add 10 billion to the economy every year according to the department of transportation estimates. Today I had the pleasure to learn about how science often has a drastic effect on guiding regulation and the actions of everyday policy and our everyday actions. For instance the reason we know what constitutes “safe” water free of millions of different chemicals is due to years of scientific research and the ability of policymakers to understand and in cooperate these ideas into policy, looking at today’s society where certain science is often just disregarded when it comes to policy making it helped make me realize the real threat of disregarding science and the effects it has on policy. As this is my second to last week in DC I am looking forward to seeing what the next week holds and am thankful for my time spent in the district.

 

 

Stare Decisis

Living and working in DC we have the pleasure to be in the heart of politics every day. Robert Caro the esteemed biographer of Lyndon Johnson is noted to have said “In DC politics is never far from any topic of conservation” With the recent retirement of Justice Kennedy the court has been the highlight of the buzzing conversation in the district.

The retirement of Justice Kennedy was considered a massive blow to liberals that will have a lasting impact on the decision and politics at the highest level for decades. Justice Kennedy is considered a “moderate” judge ruling with the “liberal” justices on numerous issues, from the legalization of gay marriage, the protection of the ACA, limiting the use of the death penalty in some cases, protecting affirmative action, and striking down several state-level restrictions on abortion. Although Justice Kennedy was considered to be a moderate judge, according to the political statistics website 538 Justice Kennedy voted with the “conservative” justices 71 percent on close cases and ruled in favor of striking down abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. With Justice Kennedy now gone Chief Justice Roberts becomes the “swing vote” in hyper-partisan judicial positions. Many questions remain now as Justice Kennedy left open the burden of proof for proving districts are Gerrymandered open in previous decisions, and what the future looks like now for Roe V Wade, and the ACA. Will the Chief Justice rule in favor of encouraging the idea of stare decsis and attempt to preserve the legacy of the court, or make headway on new judicial rulings?

As a Washington insider few names came in as possible appointments including judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Thomas Hardiman, and Amy Coney Barrett. Kavanaugh and Kethledge both clerked for Justice Kennedy while Judge Barret clerked for the late justice Scalia. The general buzz before the decision came down to Judge Barret a known strong defender of religion and Judge Kavanaugh a Washington insider with an extremely distinguished pedigree.  Tensions were high all week as liberals complained Merrick Garland never received a hearing, and conservatives excited about the possibility of controlling the highest court in the land.

The decision of Judge Kavanaugh was regarded as the “safer” choice of the two, yet still, questions remain around his judicial history and his long case history. Judge Kavanaugh has stated he will protect precedent when asked about Roe V Wade, but as an appellate judge before he was bound by precedent. If confirmed the judge would be able to rule as he thought the law intended, and also changes the makeup, if confirmed the breakdown would be 5 Yale law grads vs 4 Harvard law grads. It is generally thought the justice will be confirmed by midterms, yet there is still much to come, and politics is never predictable.  I am thankful to be in DC a little longer to watch it play out and continue to learn.

This week I learned that about the intricacies of federal grazing policy. Under current Bureau of Land Management rules, a rancher can have his cattle graze on federal land for roughly a dollar seventy-five per unit of cattle, while a competitive price on private land is considered around 20 dollars a unit. Furthermore, I learned that grazing has huge drastic impacts on the environment as well, cattle constantly tread in streams effectively stomping out the eggs of salmon and other freshwater fish. In areas where cattle have grazing rights fish populations have shrunk nearly 60 percent.

One Step Closer

This week I have been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy our Independence Day in the United States Capital. My 4th of July began by waking up bright and early at 11:00 AM, from there I made the long 20 feet trek from my bed to the kitchen and fried up an egg and some ham alongside a bagel, the real breakfast of champions. From my 5th floor palace, I wandered down to room 106 to adventure with the boys of 106. The boys and I wandered to our local McDonalds to enjoy some classic American food and then preceded to the capital to join one of my friends from high school to watch the concert and fireworks. Although we ended up going home before returning to watch the fireworks, we adventured around the capital and explored the best spots while enjoying the not as bad as Arizona, but still prevalent July sun.

One of the best perks of working on the hill is getting to enjoy the 4th of July in our nation’s Capital from the steps of the US Capitol, it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that few have had the pleasure to enjoy, and I count myself lucky to be a part of the club. Even better is we were able to take our friends along to enjoy the view of legends such as Jimmy Buffet, the Temptations, and the voice of our host John Stamos. The celebration was wonderful and while I proudly consider myself a patriot, there are times where I am frustrated with the choices that our leaders make and the values we sometimes seem to promote and express to the world. Sitting just mere feet away from where some of the greatest leaders in US history have sat and debated the biggest issues facing our country and watching the ultimate display of US pride helped to remind that even though when we are going through a rough time it’s a pleasure to live in the US and sit alongside friends to enjoy a night of unity and celebration.

This 4th of July work week was slow yet productive, as I finished all the projects I had been working on over the past few weeks. It helped that the interns outnumbered the amount of staff in my office every day we were there this week. Our Chief of Staff fought hard to convince the Congressman to close the office the whole week, as our Legislative Director, Communications Director, one of our Legislative Assistants, and one of our Senior Policy Directors took the whole week off, furthermore our other Senior Policy Director and our scheduler took Thursday and Friday off, still no success. Two of the interns don’t come in on Fridays so I was the king of the office today and was the only one in our front office for most of today.

This week at work I learned a lot about some of the less talked about parts of politics and policy. Through my slow, yet productive work week I was able to learn a ton about litigation and how it works to promote/stop laws and policies. As most of the Grijalvistas (what our office staff and interns calls themselves) were out of the office, I represented us at numerous briefings put on by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus informing member offices about the litigation with DACA, keeping families together at the border, the legality of Asylum claims, and numerous other vital parts of immigration law. Through my time in DC, I have seen much and learned a ton more about policy and have talked to people from all different viewpoints. While this has been a wonderful experience, it has also somewhat terrified me, I have noticed that our viewpoints cause us to demonize the other side and fall into the harsh cycle of partisan warfare. Working in the State government prior the two-sides disagreed often, but always seemed to get along after debates; working on the hill the rhetoric about the other side from constituents and staff in the halls is hyper hyper-partisan and that frankly is extremely worrying for me. Taking a small step back from politics, the partisan divide has become so focused on identity politics, or the idea of political views being tied closely with who we are as people our race, education levels, areas of origin, and religion. As our views become so intertwined with who we are, is there a way to overcome the ever-growing political divide? As I continue to work these next couple weeks I am anxious to get more closure on this issue and am looking forward to enjoying another day in paradise.

 

Gonna Network to Get that Net Worth

Networking is an intricate art form crafted by egocentric extroverts to create ties in the ever vast and expanding career and business markets. Luckily being a student of politics and working in Congress, I am constantly surrounded by the egocentric extroverts who are masters of the fine craft and have learned how to employ this someone unpleasant but deeply necessary skill.

My networking experience in our nation’s capital has been a whirlwind of adventure which I am extremely thankful for! From networking with the previous scholars to other interns to employees on the hill, and from organizations all over the globe I feel I have learned a lot and made some valuable connections. My biggest policy passion is environmental policy and I am extremely lucky to work in the office of the ranking Democrat on the United States House of Representatives Natural Resources committee, due to this connection our office gets many different visitors from some of the leading environmental groups across the globe! I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the leaders of many organizations from the Sierra Club, Borderlands, Natural Resource Defense Council, and the Sky Island Alliance. Our Senior Policy Advisor in our office, Glenn Miller, has many connections in my local community from the environmental world and am looking forward to meeting up with some of his connections when I return to the Southwest. Glenn has been with Representative Grijalva since the start of when Raul first came into office on the Pima county board of supervisors and is one of the most knowledgeable people on the policy area I have ever meet and am looking forward to obtaining some of his knowledge in the office.

Some of the coolest people that I meet though are the committee staff of the natural resources committee itself and I am looking forward to getting more involved with the committee. Alongside the chief counsel, Sarah Lim, and staff assitant, Omar Guzman Toro I helped plan and set up for a briefing and reception with some of the leading activist on the environmental policies of the border. From this experience, I meet the chief litigator from the Center for Biological Diversity (Mr. Byrd) who is currently working on a suit that has the most feasible chance of blocking the border wall and learned a ton about the legal weight behind environmental law.

This past week I have learned that the most useful quality in an intern seems to be a willingness to take on whatever initiative needs the most help and work from there. For instance, this week as most of our staff was caught up in the immigration debate, our Legislative Director asked me to attend a hearing on Opportunity Zones and bring a report back to her. After the hearing I got to sit down with her, the executive director of the Progressive Caucus, and my rep and basically, they asked me some questions and allowed me to pretty much decide our policy decision on the issue! Furthermore, this week I told my social media director I was a CSPAN fan and I got to work to create a little five-minute video of members of our caucus speaking out against family separation. Overall, I feel I am learning a lot at my internship and making great connections. I am extremely thankful to be working in the office of Congressmen Grijalva, the office treats interns like valuable members of the staff and promotes every opportunity for learning and engagement that they can within our intern class.

 

The Metro or DC?

            I have begun to view my time in DC as I view the metro(the DC subway system), a fun adventure, lots of twists and turns, different paths to get to the same spot, and people just catching themselves before they fall down. These past three and a half weeks have been a real adventure that I am extremely thankful for, however even though I consider this last week another week in paradise, paradise is not always everything it is cracked up to be. This past week I have been blessed to enjoy many fun activities be it going to numerous hearing/briefing at the US Capitol, my favorite this past week was on the health of estuaries in Florida and included free pizza, adventuring through DC, or simply hanging with my wonderful friends here. There have also been many struggles a close friend got in a bad car crash and his whole family is currently in intensive care at a local hospital in Colorado and my job satisfaction I can’t say is at an all-time high as a large portion of my week has been people yelling on the phone at me about a policy my office actually agrees with them on. As I have journeyed through this week in paradise though ,I have learned a ton about career trajectories and about the US Congress, which I am extremely grateful for. 

         Today I had the pleasure to sit down with a member of the staff in my office and see how they have gotten into their current career field using some questions and conversations points from “50 Ways to Get a Job” by Dev Aujila. First off as a little background my congressional office is one of the most prominent advocates for Native Americans and one of the loudest voices when it comes to Native American affairs as the district host four sovereign tribes in its borders. The person who I talked with is native themselves and handles all of our native issues. When they first started venturing into their career path, they always pictured themselves doing law and were actively involved in Mock Trial and pre-law clubs and interned in college at a law office. They even attended one year of law school at Summits law school in downtown Phoenix. After discovering law school was not for them, they returned to school while working full time first at a corporate insurance firm, and then at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute after extremely low job satisfaction. While in school working towards an MPP/MPA they also participated in the Udall Foundation program through our current members’ office after a recommendation from someone at the institute. The Udall program takes students from Tribal Nations and puts them in a congressional internship to better understand how the government to government relationship works. After the program and graduation, they began to take on more admin roles at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute and although better paying not as satisfying. Although they explored many different avenues an opportunity came back up to work in the office of the congressman and they grabbed it due to a passion for policy that effects tribal nations.

            One of the many lessons I learned this week is to be open to whatever new opportunities are presented to you. Also, I learned that patience is an extremely important virtue and sometimes you just must trust the process. Congress rarely acknowledges the views of the minority party at all but answers swiftly to the public. Although I was challenged this week in my personal life and in my work life, it personally helped me cement the idea of staying positive and doing everything you can to help work for tangible change. One of the things I learned this week is to take advantage of your resources and make all the connections you can, DC seems to be based off knowing someone and having a resume that somewhat fits your desired career, there seems to be no hard and fast path to any position which brings in a plethora of new and fresh ideas. Moving forward I am looking forward to learning about policy, being open to new opportunities, and enjoying every day in paradise.

Respectfully,

Cameron D. Toering

 

AZ CD3

          As a native Tucsonan and someone who is extremely interested in Natural Resources policy. It is a true honor to work in the office of Representative Raul Grijalva, a native of the Tucson area and Ranking member of the House of Representative’s Natural Resources Committee.

            Representative Grijalva’s district is Arizona’s third congressional district. The member has served there since the creation of the district in 2012 and was previously a Representative of the 7th district which was virtually the same but was slightly larger in terms of land mass. Arizona’s third has the second most borderland of any district in the US, it also is home to 4 sovereign nations, the Cocopah, Pascue Yaqui, Quechan, and Tohono Oodam. Due to the contents of the district Representative Grijalva is frequently an advocate of native rights and advocates to honor the provisions set in treaties with the tribes, this current Congress he has been the prime sponsor on two bills addressing native rights and has been the cosponsor on countless others. Representative Grijalva is a large advocate for supporting immigrant families, protecting families from separation and DACA. Furthermore, due to the fact in large part that creating a wall, fence, or barrier on the southern border creates an impediment to species native only to border region as well as the massive waste of capital; Rep Grijalva is adamantly opposed to the creation of any such infrastructure. Due to a large amount of public land in his district and his passion for preservation, Rep. Grijalva has been the prime sponsor on 9 natural resources/ environmental protections bills during the 115th Congress and cosponsored many others. (Grijalva holds the house record for cosponsoring the most bills as he is the current co-sponsor of 690)

            One more interesting fact about the congressman’s district is that it is called a majority-minority district. As implied in the voting rights act of 1964, States must attempt to create majority-minority districts. Representative Grijalva’s district is 61.6 percent Hispanic and has a Cook PVI of D+13, which means that the district votes 13 percent more for the Democrats than the national average. It is generally assumed that most majority-minority districts lean towards favoring Democrats. According to Pew research, 64 percent of Hispanics identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party ideas while 92 percent of African Americans voted for Clinton in the 2016 election. Disclaimer (while Cubans are identified as Hispanics, 54 percent of Cubans voted for President Trump in 2016.)

            Representative Grijalva has never lost a race in his district winning 58.37 percent of the vote in 2012, 55.7 percent in 2014, and running unopposed in 2016.

            This week in the office I have had the pleasure of attending a briefing on the environmental effect of the border wall. The briefing went into specifics of the species that would be affected by any barrier between the two nations, existing and possible extensions. The briefing highlighted the challenge that landowners near the border had with keeping their land from being taken by the federal government. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security has the ability via a law from Congress in 2005 to waive upwards of 35 laws to acquire the area, an authority not even given to the Department of Defense and frankly unprecedented in US History and currently being challenged in the courts. 

AZcd3