For students interested in government, a summer spent interning in Washington, D.C. is a dream come true. This summer Grant Whitney ’17 lived that dream as an intern for the United Nations Foundation, an organization that advocates on behalf of the United Nations. Whitney’s internship was made possible by the Joseph F. Anderson ’44 Internship Fund and provided him with valuable insight into the processes of government and law-making.
The United Nations Foundation (UNF) is an international organization that spreads awareness of the UN’s projects, works with other organizations and corporations to support the UN’s goals, and provides the UN with funding. Whitney worked with the UNF’s Better World Campaign, which works to strengthen ties between the UN and the US. Much of the Better World Campaign’s work involves lobbying on behalf of the UN.
Whitney found that “no one day with the Better World Campaign was the same.” His responsibilities included meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, attending meetings with UN officials, and writing memos for the UNF office. This work enabled him to gain first-hand experience with lobbying and to connect with many influential people. Whitney commented, “This experience as a lobbyist was incredibly rewarding, as I met with both domestic policymakers in the US and international policymakers with the UN.”
A major project Whitney was involved with was creating a bill to increase refugees’ access to high-quality education. This involved researching the challenges refugees face, searching for a member of Congress to sponsor the bill, and working on the language of the bill. This was not Whitney’s first time working to improve the lives of refugees in the US. At Hamilton, he worked as a volunteer for Project SHINE, a program through which Hamilton students help Utica refugees to learn English. “I was glad to have had my experience from Project SHINE for this experience,” Whitney said. “My time spent teaching refugees in Utica gave me a unique perspective on the challenges that refugees face in their struggle to attain a quality education, and it definitely helped with my research for the bill.”
One of the most rewarding moments for Whitney this summer was seeing UNF’s bill, Girls Count Act of 2015, passed by both houses of Congress. The bill aims to improve birth registration for children in developing nations, thus increasing their access to healthcare and basic education. He commented, “It was really special to be a part of an organization that was making a legitimate impact in the world.”
Whitney learned a lot from his time with UNF. His work on many details of promoting a bill made him “appreciate how much effort goes into a bill that gets signed into law in Washington D.C.” Each part of creating a successful bill, from determining the bill’s goal to deciding on the specific language, requires careful political maneuvering. Whitney found these details both challenging and rewarding. He commented, “As much as congressional deadlock and political correctness hindered our progress, being a part of an NGO that helped create actual laws was an inspiring experience.” In the future, Whitney hopes that he can continue to be a part of creating meaningful laws. “I’d love to continue my involvement with pushing legislation, whether that involves working in the federal government or outside, through an NGO,” he concluded.