A Scholar's Summer Never Is Dull

The Honors College enjoys featuring how its students spend their summers. Though it's natural to prefer kicking back and resting in the shade, we find that our students rarely do.

Our last newsletter featured Benny Barrett's (Classics, Great Texts - '08) summer in Baylor's Greek Institute, where he squeezed three semesters of Greek into five weeks and lived to tell about it. This time around, we caught up with Sam Chen (Philosophy, Political Science - '09). This is his account.

If the opposite of "pro" is "con," and progress is to move forward, then what does that make Congress? I can't recall how many times I have heard, or even repeated, that joke. While it never ceases to bring laughs, the joke is exactly that - a joke. I found that out first-hand last summer with an opportunity to intern in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I completed my summer internship for Congressman Charles W. Dent of the 15th District of Pennsylvania, my home state. Mr. Dent is a second-term congressman who sits on both the Homeland Security and the Transportation & Infrastructure committees in the House. He also serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy Communications, Preparedness, & Response.

While always interested in politics, my previous experiences have been with campaigning, making this the first time I worked in a legislative office. I spent a better portion of my day talking with constituents about everything from the war in Iraq to having too many squirrels in one's back yard. (I am not making this up!). While not on the phone, I did case work, specifically in Veteran Affairs, working on anything from helping our nation's veterans replace lost medals to processing applications for military academy nominations. On occasion, I had the opportunity to travel with Mr. Dent to an outreach, where we would conduct a press conference, hold office hours at the town hall, and then go door-to-door to talk with constituents about their concerns.

When we turn on our televisions today, we see political analysts talk about the economy; we see protesters calling for the return of our troops; we see debates over global warming and rising carbon dioxide emission levels; we see many things - all which affect our lives and all about which we have our own opinions. However, when the debates are over and the protesters go home, people return to their everyday lives, and different things take priority - things like getting passports, Medicare questions, obtaining Social Security checks, replacing lost military medals, even getting one's mail, and so forth. People care more about their day-to-day lives than they do about leaving Iraq or lowering CO2 emissions, and the congressman's office is responsible to help meet all those needs. This summer, our office helped nearly 1,000 constituents get their passports on time; we helped many veterans replace their lost medals; we helped constituents work out Medicare and Social Security problems; and the list continues.

The government - be it federal, state, or local - does much more than most of us can even imagine. When people joke that the government runs their lives, they are, in part, correct. Without the government our society would come to a screeching halt. Whether we agree with our representatives or not, they work non-stop to serve us and our great nation.

My education at Baylor University helped me get my internship, but it was the community of Baylor that prepared me for the internship. Everybody has needs, and a true community steps up to meet the needs of one another. This summer, I had the privilege and honor of serving the people of the 15th District of Pennsylvania and giving back to a community that has given so much to me. The experience I have gained and the lessons I have learned are priceless and will help me better serve the Baylor community, and most importantly, better serve my Lord Jesus Christ.

Samuel Chen is a junior philosophy and political science major from Wescosville, Pennsylvania in the 15th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. He is the chairperson of the Community Activities Committee in the Honors Residential College and serves as a senior associate justice on the Baylor University Student Court.