by Zett-Alexandra Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
August 28, 2009
INTERN TO THE LION
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 28. 2009 -- In the fall of my senior year at American University in Washington, D.C. I was an Intern in Senator Ted Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor and Policy Committee Office. My experience as an intern was probably vastly different than most as I started about two weeks before Sept. 11.
The typical intern's responsibilities - answering phones and constituent correspondence and doing legislative research - was replaced by numerous bomb threats, the anthrax scare, and office displacement.
Anthrax, which was found a few doors down from us in Senator Tom Daschle's office, led to me waiting every day for weeks in a four-hour line at the Capitol to be tested. And being so close to the outbreak, we all had to go on the very strong antibiotic Cipro "just to be safe." It was a crazy and often scary time.
The parents of the other intern in our office, who was from Cornell and interning in D.C. just for the semester, made him come home because it was too much. We would be given detailed instructions on how to open the mail and what to look for. To this day I always examine my mail. As interns, we were in a way the first line of defense.
Despite the craziness, I did get wrapped up in the wonderment at the halls of Congress. The underground trams, eating in the same cafeteria and brushing elbows with U.S. Senators, and the rush to get a memo to Senator Kennedy's "bag" before he left for the day - those were exciting times. I had no power but felt important.
I only met Senator Kennedy once, at his staff Christmas Party. He was nice enough to pose for a picture and later autographed the print. He thanked me for my service and recognized that as interns we do a lot of work for no pay.
There have been so many wonderfully eloquent tributes to Senator Kennedy since his passing. All I can add is that I wish people truly knew how he fought for us and what he accomplished. Most Americans take for granted some of the basic rights we have today, especially the younger generation, because they do not know any better.
I remember being the only girl on my soccer team when I was 5 years old. By the time I was 10, we finally had enough girls for our own team. And this was 15 years after Title IX - which Kennedy spearheaded. It took a long time, but look how women dominate and excel in high school, collegiate and even professional sports today!
I remember when my oldest friend, who was pregnant with her first child, and is more into math and science than politics like me, called to tell me that she was researching her health benefits. She said, "Did you know I have maternity leave thanks to Ted Kennedy and the Family and Medical Leave Act?"
These are just two examples, but his achievements from minimum wage to worker safety, are countless. His legacy is a part of our daily lives and most of us don't even know it. He may have lived an affluent life but he truly fought for the less fortunate. With Senator Kennedy you felt your voice was heard. And it was.
Zetta Scheinbaum is the daughter of longtime AR Correspondent Mark Scheinbaum.