Reflections from the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship: Part I

At Capitol Hill, the ANCA interns gain first-hand knowledge of Congress

The Russian Duma, Watergate, and Geopolitics… No Coffee Runs


BY DZOVAK KAZANDJIAN


Often enough, interns who travel to Washington DC leave disappointed since the majority of the work they are given consists of grunt work and making quick runs to the local coffeehouse. After two weeks in DC, I can safely say that I will not be one of those interns whose biggest challenge in the course of their internship is to master the art of correctly ordering a latte. The ANCA Leo Sarkisian internship has proven to be challenging in the first two weeks alone and I know that the projects that I am assigned will be give me knowledge I can take back with me to LA. Plus, no one has demanded coffee from me;yet.
In the first week alone, I attended a joint meeting between the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Russian Duma, where I learned the fine art of political rhetoric. I saw how Russian leaders and House Representatives such as Committee Chairman Tom Lantos are able to refute each other’s ideas in a completely diplomatic manner. I also attended a U.S.-Turkey Policy Issues briefing that same afternoon, and experienced first hand the true politics behind a Q & A session. When asked about human rights violations in Turkey, Representative Pascrell and Dr. Omar Tappymar of the Brookings Institute did not give direct answers, and instead, tactically changed the direction of the question and promoted Turkey’s well being. Similarly at a conference about Darfur, organized by the Africa Section of the Woodrow Wilson Center ‘s a patently pro-Sudanese government entity — speakers avoided the truth about the current genocide taking place in Sudan, and instead focused on a vague history of the region.
In addition to spending hours on Capitol Hill, we have already had four lectures from leading Armenian American politicos, from our own ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Executive Director Aram Hamparian, to ARF Bureau member Garo Armenian, who gave an all-encompassing overview of the geopolitics of the Caucasus region.
If you want to have a bird’s eye view of the American political landscape, Almanac of American Politics editor Charles Mahtesian is your man. Despite a grueling schedule, Mahtesian made time to meet with the ANCA interns this week to really give a primer on the 110th Congress, the new primary schedules and really took the time to answer the millions of questions we bombarded him with regarding the 2008 elections. Prior to his lecture, fellow intern Chris Yemenidjian and I had the chance to have lunch with Mahtesian, and tour of the famed Watergate building.
Overall, my two weeks in DC have been amazing and I’ve grown fond of the East Coast, humid weather and all. It’s completely different than California, where it takes approximately 6 hours to drive across the state. Here, you can drive the same distance and end up in New York City. I had the chance to travel to Philadelphia over the weekend, and the entire drive took less than 2 and a half hours. It’s incredible how closely knit all of the East Coast is; if you’re craving a juicy Philly cheese steak sandwich while in DC, the all-American comfort food is just a short drive away!

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