By Nicoló Ferretti, 2019 NIAF Congressional Fellow
Forty Italians stood in a round room in the heart of the Capitol as Kirsten Gillibrand, a U.S. Senator from the great state of New York, gestured towards me. She had just welcomed the group to the Capitol; I translated her welcome into Italian for our guests. They were here to celebrate Detective Joe Petrosino, an Italian immigrant exemplary of the kind of impact Italian Americans have had in our experiment in democracy. In the early 20th century, he had done work that led to the arrest of thousands of mafia-related criminals here and in his native Sicily. The forty Italians in the Capitol that day learned about the complicated history that created the country where Petrosino had become a successful detective. They got there by arranging a series of events with the office of Congressman Tom Suozzi (NY-3), who has been my boss last fall. Through this position, I have had incredible experiences like this one and many, many more.
The privilege of working for Congressman Suozzi, an Italian American politician and community leader from and representing Northwest Long Island, was made possible through the NIAF Congressional Fellowship. And what exciting work it was. Daily, I crossed paths with famous members of Congress and attended historical hearings. One series of hearings that considered the teen vaping epidemic was especially important to my office. When I interned in the office, we were working to implement taxes on vaping to financially disincentivize addiction. At other events I got to hear important opinion leaders speak and even met celebrity activists like Enes Kanter. Being in the throng of these events made my job constantly interesting.
More importantly, I learned what working on the Hill, across party lines and helping constituent looked like. A large portion of my time was consumed by speaking to and responding to constituents. Some constituent calls were incredibly fulfilling. We were able to help people plagued with fraud and healthcare problems. At the very least I learned how to deal with people, especially those that felt like they weren’t getting attention. Really, everything we did was for the constituents. We supported bills that would lower drug costs to help our elderly constituents who were facing financial issues to medical costs. I learned the importance of tooling government policies to produce positive, tangible effects for Americans.
Moreover, I learned the facts of the issues that face the United States. In briefings I heard about everything from the risk associated with North Korean relations to green infrastructure implementation to save taxpayer dollars. These briefings allowed me to right informed policy memos for my office. They also complemented my studies of Science and International Affairs at Georgetown University.
Between helping constituents, experiencing the excitement of congressional politics, and learning about an array of important and topical issues, I have had few experiences more rewarding then being an intern at Rep. Tom Suozzi’s office through the NIAF Congressional Fellowship.
Nicoló Ferretti is a student at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, studying Science, Technology and International Affairs.
The 2020 NIAF Congressional Fellowship application is open now until June 1. For more information, visit: https://www.niaf.org/programs/congressional-fellows/.