June 9, 2008

First Day at NIAC

It is my first day interning at NIAC and I am very excited to be here. I am from Scotland and attend St Andrews University but I have been in America since last August on my junior year abroad. Studying in the U.S. has been a fantastic experience and one that has opened many doors for me, not least because of the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C.

From these introductory remarks it is obvious that I am not Iranian American. Nevertheless, I found a placement at NIAC extremely appealing for a number of reasons. First, my major is International Relations and consequently the issues that NIAC deals with are relevant for this area of study. I hope that interning here will better my understanding of U.S. foreign policy, as well as civil society and its influence over policy making. More specifically, the issues that NIAC deals with pertain to my major and are important from an international affairs point of view. For instance, its efforts to highlight human rights abuses in Iran; I wish I could have been around when NIAC held its conference on “Human Rights in Iran and U.S. Policy Options” since I am especially interested in this topic.

Second, while in the USA I have focused on the study of American politics. Therefore, being in D.C. – the heart of U.S. politics – is a great experience and I was eager to see how the concepts I learned about in the classroom are applied in reality. Prior to starting at NIAC I was on the Hill interning for Speaker Pelosi. This gave me the chance to see the political world from inside Congress; how the House and Senate interact, what their relationship with the Executive is like, and how the legislative branch works with special interest groups and civil society. After being having viewed the workings of the American political system from within a government institution, I was very keen to experience a different perspective. A grassroots organization such as NIAC provided the perfect opportunity. Consequently, I am looking forward to observing how this non-governmental organization works to achieve its goal of promoting Iranian-American participation in civic life, how it liaises with Congress and builds relations with the members in order to further its agenda.

Finally, and probably most significantly, I think the work that NIAC does is worthwhile and necessary. The issues that it targets are important for us all to take note of, whether we are Iranian-American or not. The promotion of the Iranian-American community’s involvement in civic life is a worthwhile pursuit since it helps integrate a minority group into the American way of life, culturally and politically, while not denying it its background. We all have something to offer to civil society and, given that America is a democracy, it’s important that people know how to make their voices heard so that the ordinary person can make a difference. Subsequently, NIAC’s efforts to energize the Iranian American community, to provide the resources for them to make informed decisions, involve themselves in civic life and become politically active, are of great value and I am looking forward to being part of this endeavor.

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