After only working for the Center for American Progress (CAP) for a week, I understand why they are thought of as the “left” version of the Heritage Foundation; a far right organization. The progressive agenda that has, and continues to affect every American is sifted through by CAP employees to determine the most pressing challenges facing the nation. CAP was founding in 2003 as a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. The organization has two sub-companies within it, one that is classified as a 501©4—Center for American Progress Action Fund—where the majority of it’s lobbying takes place. The second is the part of the organization that I work for. That in the 501©3 –The Center for American Progress—focusing mainly on educating the public about who specific policies and practices will affect constituent’s lives. The Center for American Progress was founded by John Podesta who served as President Clinton’s Whitehouse Chief of Staff. Not surprisingly, with such connections with the President Bill Clinton and the Obama Administration, CAP is thought of as one of the most influential policy “arms” for the Democratic Party. Although John Podesta still remains the head of CAP’s board and currently has a office in the building, all of the day-to-day operations are run by Nerra Tanden; the current CEO. Nerra worked for both the Clinton and Obama administration and ran Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.
The Center for American Progress has numerous goals they try to achieve on a daily basis, however—in general—CAP’s main goal is to “Improve the lives of all American”. This umbrella’s over every policy area imaginable—the key issues; abortion, healthcare, etc.—where each department has their own sets of goals and aspirations.
As you know, last week, there was a tragic shooting at a Congressional Baseball Practice. A rampaged individual opened fire, killing and wounding numerous members of Congress and Aids. This horrific act unfolded on my first day with CAP. There was a depressing cloud that fell over the office mixed in with our Guns Department frantically running around. When news of the shooting rang out across the televisions, our company went on “high alert”. Even though CAP is a very secure place to begin with, the company had their security teams disperse all throughout the office public areas. If one was supposed to have a meeting with a member of the CAP staff, they were forced to show their identification card and the receptionist would photo-copy it. That sense of security remained for the remainder of the week with the climax—for me personally—occurring on Friday. CAP was supposed to host a public event with the Mayor of New Orleans—where nearly 400 people registered—and I was one of the check-in people. Upon early arrival, I was greeted by my manager and six undercover—armed—security guards. Dressed in plain suits, having some coffee, my manager introduced me to the security personnel and stated that one of the agents—Walker—will be standing directly behind me the whole time and if I were to get lunged at, I would be protected. If anything, I thought that this was scary. I would have rather preferred my manager not introduce me there for in such a case, my mind wouldn’t go straight to the worst outcome—CAP potentially getting attacked or even worse, myself. Thankfully, the event went off perfectly and no security was needed. Besides that initial increase in security, CAP has been running per usual. Outside of the Guns team, staff members—including myself—continued to work on their own legislative priorities with hopes of goal achievement.
One thing I learned this week—and what a week it has been—is to truly be “myself”. I went into my internship with CAP stating that I am going to be my true self, and if my fellow interns don’t support me, then they shouldn’t be in my life. This is a thought that I have had since I can remember, and yet I just acted upon it—I finally listened to myself—this week. So this past week, that’s what I did. I didn’t hold anything back. Making, for the first time, my genuine self-vulnerable. Throughout this past week I showed myself that I can still make/have great—long lasting—friends without having to “hide” or “hold back”. A perfect example of this was this past Friday, my intern friends at CAP and I went to a 18+ gay bar… some gay, some straight, some male, some female. Having never imagined I would be able to go to such a place with people—the gay bar, all of my once worry of judgement disappeared. They—my friends—didn’t care what we were doing, where we were or who I was with, but rather cared that we were all able to socialize and be with one another. This type of love, acceptance, and friendship is the kind that I used to dream about when coming to DC. All the time worrying that my dream was a far-fetched reality when really it was about to unfold in real life. Because of this openness and acceptance from my new friends at CAP, I have been spending a lot of time with my fellow interns more so than other groups, for spending time in a group that doesn’t accept you for who you are, and are having to put up a “front” in front of, is exhausting and no-longer. I’m blessed to have landed here at CAP with the amazing individuals who not only challenge me—on a day-to-day level—personally and professionally.
Signing off with a smile on my face– not worrying about judgment from outside sources—has never felt so empowering.