By Shreya Marathe
I was born in West Windsor, New Jersey and have lived there for all 18 years of my life. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been represented by the Democratic Party. A list of our elected officials is covered in blue. When I first became interested in politics in high school, I attended Model Congress conferences at several universities. Every liberal bill faced silent opposition and every conservative bill only had the support of those who pitied the author. Tufts University, where I just finished my first year of college, is not unique to this trend. Democrats flood social media while the Tufts Republicans club consists of only a handful of people brave enough to voice their political beliefs. Conservatives have been constantly shut down at every part of my life.
In fact, even when I got this internship, my peers were skeptical at best. Despite the fact that I intern for a nonpartisan office, most couldn’t stomach the idea of me interning for a Republican Governor. But being surrounded by people with different political beliefs has been one of the most eye-opening experiences. For the first time in my life, I’m able to engage in discussions where people see the world differently and try to understand issues from their perspective.
Every day at work, we work on something different. One day we might be writing a brief on a specific mayor or municipality. On another day, we might be making phone calls to urge constituents to come out to a public forum and voice their opinions. But regardless of what we’re doing, the conversations we have between tasks teach me just as much as the tasks themselves. We’re able to debate topics ranging from abortion to health care to race relations. Not a single intern has the same set of beliefs as another, and yet we’re able to discuss conversations in a civil manner. I hope to be able to have such insightful conversations with individuals that may disagree with me throughout my life.
Those are the same lessons we’re taught by the exceptional speakers which take time out of their Saturday mornings to speak to us. Last week Union County Acting Assistant Prosecutor Leonard Jones, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, and Councilwoman Sapana Shah came and gave us advice about how to work in law or politics. All three are exceptional lawyers and politicians, but had to work extremely hard to overcome the obstacles they faced as minorities in a white dominated field. They inspired us to push past these obstacles to achieve higher goals. This past Saturday we also had the opportunity to speak with Kristian Stout, a Republican, and Satish Poondi, a Democrat. Both of them would make great elected officials, but both declined to run for office in the future. Their message was one of the most important ones I’ve learned this summer. Even if you can’t find a politician you completely agree with, doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in politics. There should always be issues that you care about and there are always ways to work hard to achieve some change. Although my internship will be over this week, I’ll remember that message long after this summer is over.