A political summer in the Twin Cities

SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — I am not a writer. Yet, somehow, I’ve found myself in the press office of the Republican National Convention Committee on Arrangements, fooling my supervisors into believing I am eloquent and convincing myself I possess some journalistic instincts. I anticipated spending my summer in front of a Xerox machine, making photocopies and filing records, or glued to my computer screen, relentlessly inserting data into yet another spreadsheet. Internships are supposed to be thankless, and “intern” is nothing more than a politically correct term for slave, yet I have failed to encounter either attitude here. As a 20-year-old playing dress up in the political world, I have stumbled upon a microcosm of the real world, even if it will only last for just one more month. Rather than being enchanted by the charm of Washington, D.C. or swept away in the chaos of New York City, I am spending my summer lost in Minnesota, bumming rides from other interns and scrambling to orientate myself in a city that I had visited a dozen times, but was never old enough to pay attention to. To my delight, Minneapolis-Saint Paul actually has more to offer than the Mall of America and Caribou Coffee (although I am still thoroughly excited by both). When I left Cambridge, I abandoned not only my Charlie Card but also my ability to research, study, and analyze. I had no intention of walking into a library this summer, no plans to spend an afternoon pouring over century-old documents or using micro-film machines, no desire to use Google for more than checking up on the latest political gossip. These aspirations were quickly dismissed upon my arrival in the press office, yet rather than feeling resentment toward my new school-like assignments, I was excited to be back in my element, to pour over letters, news articles, and websites, searching for a story and feeling ownership over what I had done. Rather than honing my photocopying skills, I will leave Minnesota with something concrete to show for my long hours spent indoors, my blistered feet, and the tower of empty Diet Coke cans that seems to be developing on my desk. My political bubble, however, disappears as soon as I leave the office and head for my temporary home. There, the realities of a carless college student's life set in. I leave for work when my driver does; I don’t come home until an intern with car keys can. I have learned to buy just enough supplies at Target to get me through the week, and I have given up all hope of exploring the Twin Cities at my leisure. Instead, we plan ahead: Trips to the lake are proposed a week in advance, dinner plans are decided by 2 p.m. each day. Living with 12 other college students is never easy, especially when your lives are intertwined by work, sleep, and play. To argue, however, that this unique situation has put a damper on my summer would be completely false. It has been an education in itself to learn from the backgrounds and experiences of my fellow interns, and the opportunity to assist in the planning and execution of a national political convention is unlike any other. While my classmates will follow the events of the convention through the eyes of TV anchors, journalists, and bloggers, I will create my own personal coverage, through the sights, sounds, and tastes of the convention. (Unlike the Democrats, we will allow fried food.) I will get to see the behind-the-scenes convention as well as the one that everyone else will see in their living rooms. When it's all over, I will leave Minnesota with a few new friends—all of us suffering from exhaustion—and a great new wardrobe of jackets and seersucker suits. And while I will return to The Crimson as a designer, I may fool myself into believing that I can actually write. —Alee Lockman ’10, a Crimson associate design chair, is a government concentrator in Adams House.