‘You’re not here to change the world’The United States House Speaker John Boehner is an influential politician who frequently confronts President Barack Obama over issues such as the fiscal cliff and Medicare reform. But last week, the powerful Republican found himself in an awkward position when an 80-page training manual for interns was leaked to the public after an intern got drunk at a party and misplaced the document.
The manual’s “Rules for Intern Success” contain some inconceivable guidelines, such as: “Always say yes” and “Don’t talk to the press,” while “A lot of our phone callers react to what is on Fox, so stay updated with current events.” The most mind-boggling part is, “You are not here to change the world.” The handbook also gives examples of jokes to tell visitors in detail, making sure no improvisation is allowed on an intern’s part.
The document left an impression as the exclusive culture may explain an absence of communications in American politics. Naturally, communication begins from putting oneself in another person’s shoes. Only taking favorable media reports and denying creativity means an unwillingness to make compromises. If such stiff rules apply to unpaid interns, you can imagine the level of fundamentalism the top insiders are armed with.
American politics has recently been filled with more sarcasm and pessimism. Historian and presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin said in a recent interview with CBS that dialogue and compromise are missing in Washington. The president and the Congress couldn’t prevent sequestration earlier this year, and, in the process, they blamed each other. Obama mentioned Congress with sarcasm, and the Republican-dominated Congress attacked Obama for being inexperienced.
Last weekend, Washington celebrated Martin Luther King Jr., who opened a new era of the civil rights movement with his famous speech, “I Have a Dream” 50 years ago. Democrats and Republicans temporarily stopped their confrontation and commemorated the historic event. Does Dr. King’s belief of changing the world live on today in Washington? Or is the guideline, “You are not here to change the world” the true face of American politics? Either way, they’d better change the internship manual to ensure a brighter future.
The interns should be instructed: “You can change the world. The changes begin with small efforts. Reading the media with a different tendency can help you gain a balanced perspective. Have the courage to say no.”
*The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by LEE SANG-BOK