NIAF Congressional Fellowship: Reflections by Benjamin O’Hara

Benjamin O’Hara was a 2020 NIAF Congressional Fellow and is currently a senior at Georgetown University.

This fall semester, I had the opportunity to work remotely for the office of Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). I have felt very privileged to work for Congressman Pascrell not only because of his work on behalf of the Italian American community, but most importantly because of his fight for values that my Italian American grandmother instilled in me: decency and justice for all. This semester, I am proud to say I was able to do my small part in assisting the Congressman in his work.

During my time as an intern, I also learned a great deal about the legislative process and writing skills that will be useful as I enter my early career. I greatly enjoyed drafting co-sponsor memos for the congressman; in this way, I learned about interesting and important congressional bills that are rarely discussed in the media. Through this task, I also learned how to effectively summarize large amounts of information so that the reader can quickly understand the heart of the subject.

In addition, I had the opportunity to listen to hearings concerning the PPP loan program and Federal Reserve policy. These hearings gave me a deeper understanding of issues that are especially important during the pandemic.

Although my work this semester was remote, I learned and grew a lot from the experience. I am especially thankful to Congressman Pascrell’s staff members for giving me tasks that were engaging and fruitful. During this difficult and busy period, they took the time to make my experience as a NIAF Congressional Fellow as rewarding as possible, and for that I am grateful.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity NIAF and Congressman Pascrell’s office gave to me, and I know I will make use of the skills I gained this semester in my professional career after college.

The National Italian American Foundation’s Congressional Fellows program serves as an opportunity for first-hand experience in public service for the next generation of Italian American leaders in government. Fellows learned about the legislative process, issues facing Congress, and the operations of a Congressional office while working for an Italian American leader who has climbed the ladder of public policy success.

The 2021 Congressional Fellowship application is open now until June 1. For more information, visit: https://www.niaf.org/programs/congressional-fellows/.

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