2018 Grant Award: Tomas Sanchez

This summer I had the pleasure of spending a month interning for Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez who represents Illinois’ 4th Congressional District which encompasses a large part of Chicago. I first met the Congressman while I was interning at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia after my senior year of high school. He was impressed with me and offered me an opportunity to intern with him in his Washington D.C. office. After reading his book I became immediately inspired. Never in my life had I identified so much with a member of Congress. He was just another Puerto Rican kid who grew up in the inner city and stepped up when his community needed him. There was no other office I would have rather been in.

I started my internship on the 2nd of July, while the house was not in session. When I arrived, I was given an introduction on how to perform the normal tasks I would be doing in the office. My tasks consisted mainly of answering phone calls, doing research, and going through files deciding what was worthy of being archived. At first, I believed these tasks wouldn’t be that interesting but I soon found out I was wrong.

Answering phone calls is often regarded as one of the most undesirable tasks in the office but it can sometimes be one of the most interesting. Most people who call the office are not constituents but we still listen to all of the callers. Most calls were people calling to suggest that the Congressman impeach Donald Trump. I usually would reply the same to them all saying “The Congressman appreciates your call and I can assure you he shares your feelings about our President. I can tell you that he was one of the first members of congress to sign articles of impeachment but I urge you to call his colleagues across the aisle and share your concerns.” The rest of the calls were typically about whatever was on the news that day. I remember watching Trump’s press conference with Putin in the office and knowing immediately that our phones would soon start ringing.

Though our phones sometimes rang slightly more when things were happening, they rang the most after Congressman Gutierrez was on TV. In my time on the hill, the phones never rang as much they did when the House Judiciary and Oversight committees held a joint committee meeting to question FBI agent Peter Strzok. The committees were investigating after text messages showed that he mentioned Donald Trump in text message conversations with a colleague. Congressman Gutierrez felt as though these hearings were an attempt to discredit the Russia investigation so he assigned us interns research to do for the speech he would give during his allotted time. He had me research every person who was indicted in the Russia investigation which he then listed in his speech. Halfway through his speech our phones started blowing up. People from all across the country called to express how much they agreed or disagreed with what the Congressman was saying. So many calls were coming in that every single one of the staffers was answering the phones which I had never seen before.

In addition to answering phones, I was charged with going through the 20 years of files that were accumulated throughout his time in Congress. He was donating his files to the archives at his alma mater and we went through each box looking for documents that were worthy of keeping. It was truly amazing to see all that he accomplished throughout his tenure in Congress. I was so lucky to get to work in his office before he retired from Congress and I am so thankful to the PLA for helping to make it happen.