With eyes set toward a life of public service, Christina Rankin ’18 and Edward Parsons ’18 solidified their ambitions by interning at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this summer. They spoke about their experiences with Connecticut College's Maria P. Gonzalez.
A Q&A with Christina Rankin ’18, Democratic National Convention
For Christina Rankin ’18, attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia meant finding an appreciation for discourse. Rankin also learned that moments of humanity and humility can occur while simply waiting in line.
MG: Did you have any goals or expectations as you headed to the convention, and did you realize any of them?
CR: I wanted to watch the convention and meet and learn from as many people involved in politics as possible. I really wanted to meet Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and while working at a party that she hosted, I was able to pose for a quick photo with her. I interned for the Massachusetts Democratic Party last summer and during the convention I attended the state delegation’s breakfast each morning and helped distribute credentials to delegates. Working at the breakfasts allowed me to meet many elected officials from my state and learn from people involved in different aspects of politics.
MG: What stands out the most from your time at the DNC?
CR: On the first night of the convention I was in line for food with some volunteers. While in line we chatted with a California delegate, a woman who was involved in advocating for people with disabilities. When the time came to order our food we discovered that our food vouchers did not work at this establishment. The woman kindly paid for our meal and told us we gave her hope for the future.
MG: What was it like to see a woman accept the presidential nomination from a major party for the first time?
CR: Watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination was a highlight of my week. I feel blessed to have had the chance to witness history and look forward to having children who see women in the Oval Office as the norm.
MG: What was something unexpected that happened or that you learned?
CR: An untraditional highlight was spending three hours in line while trying to attend the Rules Committee hearing. Although I was not able to enter the meeting room, because it was filled to fire code capacity, I learned a lot while waiting in line. Bernie or Bust protestors were chanting for the majority of the time and I had the opportunity to speak with some of them. While we did not see eye to eye, I appreciated the opportunity to interact directly with protesters. I also had the chance to shake hands with Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager.
MG: How has attending the convention, supported your education and plans for after college?
CR: It has reassured me that I made the right choice when I decided that I want to work in politics. I made important professional connections that may help me find a career internship next summer or a job upon graduating. Most importantly, I formed lasting relationships with students who share my passion.
MG: What was a major take-away from the convention?
CR: This experience was absolutely amazing. It has without a doubt helped me grow both professionally and intellectually. I hope to complete my career internship in Washington next summer and attend the next convention as a staffer instead of as a volunteer.
A Q&A with Edward Parsons ’18, Republican National Convention
Edward Parsons ’18 traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to experience the Republican National Convention from the action-packed and often unpredictable activity of the convention floor. With his credentials in place, the economics and mathematics major saw history and controversy play out as Donald Trump became the GOP’s official nominee.
MG: What did you experience at the convention?
EP: One of my goals at the convention was to experience it from the convention floor. I was given credentials to be in the convention center each day and see first hand the convention proceedings. From Illinois, I was able to intern with the my state’s delegation for a week. During that time I met numerous Illinois delegates and Illinois Republican party officials and was able to learn how the modern convention and nomination process works at the state and local level.
MG: What was a particular moment or experience that stands out the most from your time there?
EP: One of the most memorable and controversial moments was the choice by Senator Ted Cruz to not officially endorse Donald Trump for President. I felt fortunate to be able to listen to Senator Cruz's Speech from the floor and to directly experience the reaction from the delegates.
MG: Was there anything else you found surprising or unexpected?
EP: What struck me was the division not only between the Republican party but also between the Illinois delegates and the individuals I was working with from the Illinois State Republican Party. It seems as though we have come to an end of the modern convention process and will be moving toward one in which there will be greater party control on the Republican side and one where there will be a more democratic convention process on the Democratic side.
MG: How did the convention experience support your majors and plans for after college?
EP: I’m currently studying government, economics, and mathematics at Connecticut College, and this experience has helped solidify my interest in U.S. politics and government. I have always felt that politics is a calling and not a career path, and if I’m one day called to serve I hope that I answer it.
MG: What was one of your main takeaways from the convention?
EP: During my time at the convention I was able to meet numerous Republican Party officials, congressmen, and men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces. These included Michael Steele, Senator Mike Lee, and former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell. I felt honored to meet them, and humbled that they each took the time to speak with me.