Emma Stewart (Congressman Jim Cooper)

This summer I have been lucky enough to have not just one internship, but two. A little less than a month ago I packed up my stuff in Representative Kevin Yoder’s office, made the figurative trek across the aisle to and started working for Representative Jim Cooper. When I was applying for internships, I didn’t plan on doing two or working for both a Republican and a Democrat. But now that I am almost done with my summer in Washington, I know I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Coming into the summer, I was very nervous to have two different parties listed on my resume. I thought I needed to pick a side or else I was going to doom myself for any future employment because I had “worked for the enemy.” I thought I needed to take a stand one way or another if I was ever to make a real difference in our world. America’s party system is divided red and blue, so I felt like I had to be too. However, what I’ve learned is that the ability to see things from all angles and being open to other opinions is not a weakness, but a strength. And today, and rare one.

In my two months working in the House of Representatives, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what I believe and my vision for what America should be. Meeting with staffers, going to hearings, and talking to constituents on the phone I’ve been exposed to countless perspectives on issues I didn’t even know were issues. Sometimes, I completely disagreed with what people had to say. A few times, I had no opinion whatsoever. But all the time, I listened. If I have learned anything this summer, it is that a lot of problems in Washington could be solved if everyone just listened to each other a little more. Spending time on both sides of the aisle, I realized red and blue aren’t quite as different as they appear.

Looking back, it seems crazy to me that I was afraid I would never get hired again if I worked for both parties. This fear of being truly bipartisan is all part of the problem of modern party polarization. If I have any advice for someone who wants to work in Washington, take the risk and work for the other side. There’s a lot more to learn over there.

Emma Stewart and Cooper Interns

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