Week 3 - House of Cards

By Aayush Gandhi

The concepts discussed in the first speakership series were fresh in my mind as I got ready to start my new week of internship at State Senator Patrick Diegnan’s office. I started off my week by reading news clippings through the Office of Legislative Services Application (OLS). Following that, I entered some constituent email details into an excel spreadsheet to keep record of constituent concerns and requests. I then prepared a New Jersey Boards, Authorities and Committees vacancy list for the Senator’s reference. Wednesday was a surprise as Senator Diegnan visited the office to attend two meetings, both of which were very informative and compelling. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend the meetings with him and constituents.

The first meeting was with a business representative who wanted to organize literacy workshops for senior citizens in the district. The constituent was well prepared and well informed about the topic and we came to the conclusion that we would provide him with information about senior centers in the district. The second meeting was to implement a dual language immersion program in New Jersey schools. The constituent also informed us about the seal of biliteracy and other programs in the education space. Senator Diegnan promised to follow up with her and conduct further research on the program. I also followed the advice given by the speakers from the first speakership series and became a proactive intern and tried to ask meaningful questions to my supervisor and Senator Diegnan’s Chief of Staff Thomas Lynch.

After an exciting week at Senator’s office, I could not wait for the next speakership series. After researching the speakers of the week and preparing some questions for the speakers, I was ready! All the fellows arrived on time and were prepared to hear from the inspirational speakers. The first speaker was Congressman Pallone’s Campaign Manager Matthew Montekio. He talked about his experience as a Campaign Manager and how successful campaigns are led. He was followed by West Windsor  Councilwoman Ayesha Hamilton who explained how important it is to have professional experience in a particular field before getting involved in politics. She spoke about her own experience as an advocate and how it helped her in her political career. She also talked about campaigns she was involved in, as well as how she personally met people and connected with them to gain support for her campaign.

Jun Choi, former Mayor of Edison talked about his experience governing the 5th largest municipality in the state. He explained how diversity both helps and creates conflicts in a community. The final speaker of the day was Assemblyman Craig Coughlin. He explained how the government functions and how successful campaigns are carried out and won.

We learned that politics and campaigning is nothing like what you see on House of Cards, and if you really want to get involved in this field- don’t take any tips from Frank Underwood!

Anyway, being halfway through the New Jersey Leadership Program makes me both sad and happy. I’m happy about learning so much through this program and gaining invaluable experience through my internship and through speakers but I am also sad about that this wonderful journey will soon come to an end.