I’d like my first post to be an overview of who I am & where I’m coming from as well what I’m hoping to get out of participating in AAPD’s Congressional Intern program this summer. First off, my name is Meredith Nicholson & I will be interning in the office of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). I currently attend Smith College in Northampton, MA, where I will be a junior this fall. I am double majoring in Spanish & Government, with a focus in American Government. During my first year at Smith College, I attended a Women in Congress seminar right on Capitol Hill organized by the Public Leadership Education Network & it convinced me that it was possible for me to get my foot in the door & work on the Hill if I wanted to. So I’m unbelievably excited to find myself back in Washington D.C. a little more than a year later interning in the office of a female congresswoman & one whose Alma matter is Smith College at that!
We just finished two jam-packed days of orientation which made me feel much more prepared to have a successful internship experience nonetheless. Andraea Lavant from the National Consortium on Leadership & Disability for Youth offered a very succinct analogy about our upcoming internships, which involved someone getting into their car with the intent on driving to the beach, yet driving around aimlessly in an attempt to reach their destination & ending up in the countryside. While the countryside is beautiful & worthy place, it wasn’t the individual’s intended destination, either. I believe this analogy does a great job summing up how as interns participating in this program, we’ll get the most out of this amazing opportunity when we not only articulate what we hope to learn & experience in the process, but formulate a plan to help us get there. With our Learning Objectives Statement articulating our goals for the summer, our mentors, and numerous opportunities for professional networking at our disposal, I’m confident we can all reach the beach if we follow the road that leads us to the beach in the first place & stay on track so that we don’t stray into the countryside. Patrick Cokley from the Office of Disability Employment Policy told us that as interns in Washington D.C. this summer, we have the opportunity to network with almost whomever we want to meet and speak with them about getting where we want to go career-wise. Considering I discovered when working on my Learning Objectives Statement that I am still unsure about whether I prefer the avenue of policy advocacy or that of the policy implementation side, this was great advice. At the AAPD Networking Social & Mixer, I was able to meet several accomplished individuals from each of these fields and have already followed up with several of them about scheduling informational interviews with them so I can speak with them further about their fields of work.
Something important to know about me is that I largely look what policy work I am learning about & engage with through the lens of reproductive justice. Many people have heard about the reproductive rights movement, which largely include legal rights and liberties. Or they have heard about initiatives around reproductive health, which has a large medical component. The reproductive justice movement, though, takes an intersectional approach that links reproductive health with social justice. It recognizes the reproductive health of individuals is connected to many different factors, one of which includes disability. For example, people with disabilities are too often denied the ability to make decisions around reproductive health they deem best for themselves and their families. Forced sterilization & other invasive medical intervention upon people with disabilities without their consent is just one example of this. Many people with disabilities as well as their families have largely struggled with the right to have children & ensure they children they already have are cared for, which isn’t always captured by the “choice” rhetoric the reproductive rights movement often employs. As a person with a disability, if I ever make the personal decision to parent, my choice likely won’t even be affirmed in the first place: instead, I will be seen as a “burden” to my child & to the state to many. There is also the intersection of poverty & disability in many instances that make it harder for individuals with disabilities & their families to ensure personal health & well-being. In this sense, I am interested in how reproductive justice intersects with disability justice. How I can articulate exactly how the two are intertwined and share common ground? This is a question I hope to ultimately answer by engaging further with issues under both rubrics throughout my internship.
As Bobby Silverstein from the law firm Powers, Pyles, Sutter & Verville told the Congressional interns, we should all be recording our experiences so that we can reflect upon them in a truly meaningful way. To walk away from this internship not just with the rudimentary reaction of “That was so cool!” but a more sophisticated observation & analysis of how different components of our federal government work. I plan on keeping a personal journal detailing my experiences for this reason and I’m glad we have this blog to share our experiences with each other, too.
On one last (side) note, little known fact about me: I am a huge art history aficionado & hope to visit some of the many art galleries & art museums here in the Nation's Capital in my spare time.