By ELYSSA RENEE MADSEN
In the midst of the nation’s second ever presidential impeachment trial, 35 BYU students are receiving crash lessons in both politics and history.
This semester, the Washington Seminar, a BYU internship program that helps students arrange internships in the nation’s capitol, has placed two BYU students in the White House–its highest number ever. Representative Chris Cannon’s office, Senator Bob Bennett’s office, Senator Orrin Hatch’s office, and the House Majority Whip’s office also have BYU interns, as well as dozens of commercial and non-profit organizations around Washington D.C.
While some BYU interns say they came to D.C. despite the impeachment hearings, others say they came to Washington because of it.
Loren Katunish, 20, a junior from Los Angeles majoring in political science, said she chose to participate in Washington Seminar this semester because she wanted to witness history first-hand.
“The opportunity is priceless right now,” Katunish said of her White House internship with the political affairs office.
She said that while her office does watch the impeachment trial daily, things at the White House seem to be business as usual.
“It’s not really uptight. There is so much to worry about besides the impeachment,” Katunish said.
And while people do talk about Monica Lewinsky frequently, Katunish said it is a serious matter.
“I’ve never heard an intern joke inside the White House,” she said.
As an intern Katunish assists Mianyon Moore, assistant to the president and director of political affairs.
Ryan Sarote, 24, a senior from La Crescenta, California who is an intern at the House Majority Whip’s office, agreed that his office is focused on issues besides President Clinton’s trial.
“It’s tense (in Washington), but they are opening a new session of Congress and there is a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Sarote said that the impeachment has had a significant effect on his internship, however. He spends time answering calls from voters wishing to express their opinions concerning the impeachment. He also said that his proximity to historic events is overwhelming.
“Things are intense all across Capitol Hill. It is interesting to be in (the Majority Whip’s Office) and know the impeachment trial is going on across the hall from where I work.”
At Representative Chris Cannon’s office Michael Dowdle, 23, a senior from Safford, Arizona majoring in political science, spends much of his day answering letters and phone calls about the impeachment from constituents.
He, too, said he recognized that recent political events have turned what could have been an average political internship into an historic event.
“(Washington) is just incredible right now. It’s a very exciting time. There are a lot of things going on to be in the center of,” Dowdle said.
Whether it is the center of a congressional office or the center of a news bureau covering the impeachment trial, Washington Seminar participants receive a valuable lesson on politics, according to J. Scott Dunaway, Washington Seminar managing director.
Students participating in the program must secure their own internships and take preparatory political science classes before going to Washington D.C. Once in Washington, students must also attend a weekly BYU political science class in addition to their internship.
It’s the whole Washington experience, however, that Dunaway feels prepares students educationally.
“While students are there they come to understand the political process in a way that they wouldn’t in the classroom. This adds a richness to education you couldn’t get anywhere else,” he said.