Opinion: My summer internship with John Boehner

Sarah Matthews on the Speaker’s balcony.

Sarah Matthews

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to have the experience of interning in Washington, D.C. at what some refer to as “Boehnerland.”

My time in Speaker Boehner’s congressional office gave me an inside look into one of the most powerful and influential people in America. Few people have the opportunity to experience encounters with senior policymakers on such a casual level.

“I’m just a regular guy with a big job,” Boehner would often say. He was a down-to-earth man, who was widely known for his habit of chain-smoking, his passion for golfing and his ability to be easily moved to tears.

At staff meetings, he stressed the importance of everyone, not just him, working to achieve what they believed. This was an admittedly surprising sentiment, given that most politicians say one thing and do whatever they please. Here was not only a Congressman but the Speaker of the House who practiced what he preached.

During the second week of my internship, the speaker took 45 minutes out of his hectic schedule to sit with my fellow interns and me. I remember all of the interns being intimidated to sit in the Capitol office with the Speaker of the House, which Boehner picked up on. He encouraged us to throw questions his way and not be so nervous.

When one intern asked for Boehner’s best piece of advice, he responded, “Work hard.” This was a man of simple words, yet he said what he meant. As the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati, Boehner came from humble beginnings, which he never lost sight of.

He was faced not only with an obstinate opposition party but also hardliners within his own who opposed his leadership at every turn. Speaker Boehner has always been genuinely concerned with the state of the nation and the well-being of the conference, and his resignation proves his selflessness.

Despite dealing with opposition from both sides, Boehner had some significant victories and accomplishments. Pope Francis’ visit to the Capitol fulfilled a 20-year goal for Boehner, who long dreamed of having a pontiff address Congress. I take great pleasure in knowing one of Boehner’s lasting legacies will be something that meant so much to him.

Sarah Matthews is the student politics reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].