The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Benji, an SMPA junior studying Political Communication. You can learn more about Benji here.
It was easy to overlook in the craziness of this past presidential election, but there were lots of exciting campaigns all the way down the ballot. Over the summer, I had the privilege of being a part of one of those races. As the press intern for Tammy for Illinois, I worked closely with members of the communications team to get Tammy Duckworth elected to the U.S. Senate.
A campaign press internship is a fast paced, tiring, and often thankless job. I’d be the first person in the office in the morning to send out an email with important news that is going to be driving the day’s conversation, and one of the last people to leave after making sure there was no breaking news – a rarity during this election cycle. In between, most of my time was spent media monitoring: scouring various news sites and social media for any mentions of my candidate or her opponent. Throughout the summer I also participated in the various traditions of campaign life: marching in parades, stuffing envelopes, knocking on doors, and most importantly asking people for money. Calling up complete strangers to solicit donations is a surprisingly useful skill!
The best parts of my internship were the chances I got to write speeches, statements, and op-eds. It’s extremely challenging to write in someone else’s voice, learning how to match their cadence and speaking quirks, but the feeling of seeing your work printed in the paper and hearing the candidate deliver your words makes it all worth it. In my time working for Tammy I wrote on subjects as varied as Wall Street regulations and subsidies for corn growers. That’s one of the things I liked best about working on a campaign; so many different topics are covered and so many crazy things can happen that every day at work is unique.
As a political communications major in the School of Media and Public Affairs, the material I learned in class was directly applicable to the work I did for my internship. But you don’t have to be an SMPA student to have a successful career in politics. In fact, I picked up some of the most important abilities in my Honors classes. As annoying as it was to see red ink splattered across my Origins papers, my professor’s critiques made my writing shaper and more concise – essential traits for political writing. Additionally, the Honors Program developed my critical thinking skills, so I could cut through the boatload of information floating in the news and pick out the issues that actually mattered. I even managed to work a Plato reference into a speech!
Even though the next election seems so far away, its vital to realize that there are campaigns all the time for local races. It’s here that many of the most impactful decisions are made. So if you’re upset about the current state of American politics, hop on a campaign and elect people up and down the ballot that stand for the values you care about. As Aristotle pointed out, we are all “political animals”, and there’s no better way to tap into that natural instinct than by working on a campaign.