By Emily Hadley
I was told in middle school that the government was there to protect my natural rights. While I would be happy to debate the definitions of ‘protect’ and ‘natural rights’ in an academic setting, I have yet to receive a letter that begins with, “My natural rights have been violated.” No, the stories I have seen are much more personal: “My house has been foreclosed and I might be homeless” or “I have to go to court and I don’t know what to do.”
Governor Hassan’s Office of Citizen Services embraces a responsibility to help the individuals who contact us to the best of our ability. First, we see if it is a problem our office can address. If not, we attempt to direct the constituent to an alternate resource; in the aforementioned examples, we would likely refer the constituents to Health and Humans Services or a legal counsel program. I saw many of these departments firsthand, including the Department of Cultural Resources, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Department of Safety, and was impressed by the dedicated work done to ensure the safety, freedom, and prosperity of NH citizens.
In the middle of the summer at an intern pizza dinner, Gov. Hassan spoke to us interns about her experience as a leader and her transition to governor. When asked how she moved on after losing her state senate seat in the 2010 election, she answered, “Resiliency.” To work in politics, you have to be resilient, to face challenges directly and see the bigger picture. And yet, this summer, I have discovered that resiliency can come in all shapes and sizes. The constituents I have interacted with are some of the most resilient people I have ever encountered – they have experienced challenges I cannot imagine. And when they turn to the government, it is usually for one of two reasons: either they have no one else to turn to or they are looking to ensure that no one else has to go through what they have experienced.
As I look towards the future, I see a government that works for the people it represents. I see a government that is made of dedicated individuals who do their absolute best to keep their indomitable constituents in mind. No, I do not see a utopia. But it is a myth that all politicians and government workers are out to ‘get people’ – sometimes, they really do believe in making the world a better place.
My advice to those about to embark on an internship: Find value in the work that you do – do not be afraid to ask ‘why.’ Do things that you’ve never done before. Be open to new challenges and opportunities. And learn some basic cooking skills.
But above all, listen to the stories of the people around you. The people you work with, the people you serve, the people you pass every day. Every person has a story. The stories from my summer – those of both constituents and staff – have helped me recognize the continued importance of government and its role in daily life.
Please note: these comments are my own and do not represent the views of the NH Governor’s Office or the NH Governor’s Office for Citizen Services.