Contributed by: Jessica Salmassian, Legislative Intern at ACLU of Montana, Spring 2015
My time at the American Civil Liberties Union has been a learning experience. In accepting this internship, I had high expectations about what I would be able to glean from this opportunity, all of which have been exceeded.
I originally became interested in the ACLU because of all the historical court cases they’ve taken part in, from the Scopes Monkey trial and Roe v. Wade to Brown v. Board of Education. Since working at the ACLU of Montana, I’ve realized that the main issues we work on deal with the basic human rights of freedom and privacy, and how could anyone argue with those rights?
Growing up with a conservative background, I wanted to take this opportunity to challenge and expand my views on certain issues that have become prevalent in today’s society. While I still view myself as an elephant on the political spectrum, learning about these bills and hearing the testimonies from both sides has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about politics. At first, I surprised myself with how open I was to hearing and understanding these views. I’ve come to the conclusion that politics is all gray, with practically no true black or white. That has become so obvious to me throughout my time here, and it may be my favorite aspect of politics. The gray forces us to evaluate both sides and make the most educated decision we can, as individuals.
While working as a legislative intern, I’ve drafted letters to the governor, organized bill information, and compiled notes on certain bills. The highlight of my internship has been venturing to the Capitol to listen to and watch different hearings. Doing work behind the scenes is only made worthwhile when you can see where your work is going and the end goal. Seeing bills come to life in hearings gave me a heightened motivation to work harder.
This internship has allowed me to see the inner workings of a legislative session, and has given me skills that will be useful as I continue to pursue an education and career in politics. In continuing to gain knowledge and experience in this field, I have also accepted a position to work in the legal department of a corporate company over the summer. I’m confident that my experience from working at the ACLU will help me to progress on this path, and I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.