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Working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Three CAS alums interned at the White House


Today is the final day of what’s proven to be an unforgettable experience for three recent BU grads. Jared Kleiman, Pratik Desai, and Abhishek Seth have spent the last 12 weeks interning at the White House. Each had to beat out hundreds of candidates to participate in the fiercely competitive White House Internship Program.

“This experience has reaffirmed my passion for public service and renewed my belief that a few committed individuals have the power to effect change,” says Desai (CAS’12), who worked for the past three months with the White House’s Management and Administration Council. “I think the most difficult part of the whole experience has been remembering that it’s just temporary and that I’ll be leaving.”

Seth (CAS’12) has spent his internship working in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, and Kleiman (CAS’12) landed his internship with the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.

The White House Internship Program gives young people a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience life inside the Executive Office and prepares them for careers in public service. Many departments within the executive branch—from the chief of staff to the National Economic Council—rely on interns to perform tasks that include research, writing background memos, and staffing events. The internships last 12 weeks and are unpaid.

The three BU alums say they participated in the program for different reasons. Kleiman already had a history of internships, having worked as a legislative intern in the House of Commons while studying abroad in London. He later was an intern at the American Embassy in London and with the U.S. Commerce Department and says he is interested in pursuing a career in public and community service. Seth says he was drawn to the White House program because of the opportunity to observe firsthand the inner workings of the executive branch. Desai says he applied to the program because of its track record of cultivating future leaders of government.

Kleiman recalls feeling awestruck his first day on the job by the “sense of duty” and “privilege of access” that the internship conferred upon him. “I learned a lot about the executive branch at BU, taking classes with great professors, like Doug Kriner, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of political science, but nothing prepared me for the indescribable feeling of walking into the White House complex,” he says. The Domestic Policy Council, where Kleiman interned, advises the president on issues such as education, energy and climate change, and immigration. He has spent the past two months writing background briefings, policy memos, and fact sheets for senior policy staff on current policy and proposed legislation.

Seth says that working in the Office of Presidential Correspondence meant that no two days were alike. The department handles official correspondence on behalf of the president, including letters and emails from private citizens, civic organizations, and elected officials. The office also drafts and produces presidential proclamations, messages, and greetings, and operates the White House comment line.

His internship proved eye-opening in unexpected ways. “Unlike Hollywood’s version,” he says, “the White House is diverse in every sense of the word.”

Desai, former president of the BU Hindu Students Council and a Scarlet Key Award recipient, says his internship with the Management and Administration Council has taught him to always be prepared for the unexpected. The office works with the White House photo and visitors offices, among others, to ensure that each day runs smoothly.

Each week, the interns came together to attend a speaker series featuring senior staff members (a recent speaker was Vice President Joe Biden) and participate in small group discussions about different policy aspects of the administration. The internship also emphasizes community service; the recent BU alums volunteered at schools and nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the most glamorous part of the job is the occasional celebrity sighting. Typically, that means lunchtime visits from Bo, the First Dog, but Desai says he’s met the president’s Cabinet secretary, Christopher Lu, his press secretary, Jay Carney, and Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s chief of staff. Seth says he was able to observe the president and First Lady up close during a September 11 memorial service on the South Lawn.

What’s next for the three alums now that their internships are over? Kleiman says he plans to pursue a job in the public sector dealing with policy development and research. Seth hopes to find a job in public relations and will continue to interview celebrities about their charity work for the website Look to the Stars.

Desai is hunting for a public service position as well. But he says that whatever comes next, working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is something he’ll never forget. “Walking into the White House complex for the first time was both inspiring and daunting, and it’s a feeling that has lasted beyond the first day of the program,” he says. “Every day has been a lesson in humility, and I often have to stop and remind myself how fortunate I am to be here.”

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

4 Comments on Working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • anon on 12.14.2012 at 8:52 am

    Too bad these internships are unpaid… further widening the opportunity gap between “haves” and “have-nots”.

    • Bob on 12.14.2012 at 12:22 pm

      Because students that driven and successful with an experiential credential like that are disadvantaged by the lack of minute pay? And I’m sure pre-medical students who do similar unpaid hospital work are also have nots..

      • anon on 12.14.2012 at 6:13 pm

        how do you expect someone to pay for rent, food, and transportation in Washington without a job?

    • Abhishek on 12.15.2012 at 9:00 pm

      i thought the same thing. fortunately there’re organizations out there that can help with closing that opportunity gap


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