Directly behind me, Chelsea’s typing furiously while Celia makes her twentieth call of the day, informing a State Representative that we have decided to endorse her 2014 campaign. Our office, decked with colorful pro-choice pins, posters, and other memorabilia, provides a welcome contrast to the gray sky and browns and beiges of the modest Boston skyline outside my window.
I’m spending my summer working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts as their Intern Coordinator. NARAL is the political arm of the pro-choice movement and works to secure women’s right to abortion, birth control, emergency contraception, health pregnancies, and healthy relationships. Massachusetts is one of NARAL’s 20 state affiliates, located at 15 Court Street in the heart of Downtown Crossing, on the ninth floor of a building that houses an assortment of advocacy, legal, and professional offices. I interned for NARAL Pro-Choice New York last summer, and though I’ve lived in three cities in the past three semesters – New York in the summer, Boston in the fall, and Washington DC in the spring – I’ve stayed involved with NARAL throughout the year. When I explained to my supervisor, Chelsea, in January that I would be living in Boston this summer, we worked together to craft an internship that would expand upon my leadership abilities and desire to create innovative campaigns that would propel the political landscape of Massachusetts in a pro-choice direction.
Five months later I’m bunkered down in NARAL’s office, with two weeks to prepare for the summer ahead. Our ten political interns arrive on June 3, and before that date I have an incredible amount to do. In addition to composing their intern manual, planning a two-hour political organizing training, and scheduling one-on-one meetings with each intern prior to their arrival, I’ve also recently been assigned my first advocacy campaign. The Women’s Health Protection Act is federal bill that would codify Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court case that secured a woman’s right to choose, in all state law, and pre-emptively void any anti-choice legislation that would impede a woman’s right to access safe, legal reproductive healthcare. All but two members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have co-sponsored this bill, which means that the two remaining Representatives – Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch – will be hearing from my interns and me in the coming weeks.
I, alongside my supervisor and NARAL’s Political Director, will be planning a campaign from the grassroots up – everything from collecting petition signatures from Constituents, creating social media graphics and one-liners, and directly lobbying members of the Massachusetts Legislature and federal legislature to urge Lynch and Neal to support the bill. It is precisely the sort of substantive, adrenaline-inducing work I’ve been hoping for.
It’s clear one week in that I still have a great deal to learn about the political organizing process. A great deal of organizing and lobbying at the organizational level entails building strong, reciprocal relationships with other organizations and professionals that can assist you in achieving your policy goals. As a rising college senior, my Boston rolodex is embarrassingly small, and I plan to spend my summer scheduling informational interviews with likeminded professionals in the reproductive justice sphere. I also plan to learn quite a bit about time management and leadership in light of my responsibility to hire, schedule, and directly supervise ten political interns, many of whom are my age or older. I hope to make this experience as gratifying, substantive, and inspiring as possible for my interns so that they feel like they are genuinely contributing to our movement.
Since I have two weeks until the interns arrive, I’ve had the excellent opportunity to get to better know the NARAL Staff. There are only four full-time staff members here – Megan, the Executive Director; Erica, the Finance Director; Chelsea, the Health Equity Organizer; and Celia, the Policy Director – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy and acceptance of the office atmosphere. I am treated with respect and assigned substantive, important projects; I am privy to conversations regarding NARAL’s organizational structure, finances, and future campaigns; and, most importantly, I’m treated like a member of the team, an equal fighting for this cause we all so staunchly support.
My friends have warned me that this may be my “honeymoon” phase, and a few weeks into my internship I’ll be dreading the 9-5 grind – but somehow, I don’t think so. There is never, ever a dull moment in this office, and given my passion and visceral support for this cause, I bet I’ll be just as excited about my internship on the day I leave.