Hooked on politics | August 1, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Living - August 1, 2008

Hooked on politics

Danville man spending the summer as an intern in D.C.

by Michelle Olson

Interested in politics? Then head for D.C.

That's what John Bordalampe did - he's serving a internship in the Washington office of U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney.

"I am interested in the political process," said Bordalampe, 22, a UC Berkeley student who was raised in Danville. "I was really excited to come out here."

He applied for the internship in April and was interviewed over the phone shortly afterward. He started in early June and will stay in D.C. through the middle of this month.

"The whole town buzzes politics," he said excitedly. "You get into a taxicab and the driver is talking about a bill passing."

Bordalampe works four days a week, starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 5:30 p.m. During this time he makes coffee, sorts mail, answers phones, and gives tours of the Capitol.

"The interns are basically the customer service team for the office," summed up Andy Stone, communications director for the congressman. "It is a great introduction to life on the hill."

McNerney, a Democrat, represents the 11th District, which comprises parts of Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties and includes Danville and parts of Alamo.

Having grown up in the 11th District, Bordalampe appreciates the issues of the area. He said it helps him relate to the callers who are trying to reach the congressman to voice their opinions. Calls commonly are about controversial issues such as gas prices, oil drilling and veterans' affairs.

"Many of the people who call think they are talking to someone who has never been to California," Bordalampe said. "When I say I'm from the district, people open up more over the phone. I try to help them however I can."

A day at the office also includes a look at the congressional schedule to check for hearings he might like to attend.

"My favorite things are the hearings and the briefings," Bordalampe said. "There is a whole plethora of different subjects."

What interests him most are alternative energy sources and national defense. Soldiers who have been overseas sometimes share their experiences at the hearings, he said.

"With the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's good to get detailed reports of what's going on," Bordalampe noted.

He graduated San Ramon Valley High School in 2004 and continued his education at UC Berkeley where he is a fifth-year senior.

He said he didn't always think he wanted to go into politics but always had an interest in it.

"I can remember being in Mrs. Endicott's kindergarten class at Green Valley Elementary School and every morning we would say the Pledge of Allegiance, facing the flag and a picture of George H.W. Bush," Bordalampe wrote via e-mail. "That was until the morning Bill Clinton was inaugurated, when the teacher switched the picture of Bush out for one of Clinton. I've been hooked ever since."

During college he changed his major from chemistry to political economies of industrial societies. The emphasis not only teaches about the American market but also how international markets affect each other, and how politics affect global markets.

Bordalampe is doing his internship through the Cal in the Capital program, which matches students with jobs in Washington, D.C. More than 180 students apply each year but only about 70 are picked in a highly competitive application process.

"It was pretty tough to get into," Bordalampe said. "There is the question: I got an internship in D.C., now where am I going to live? This program takes care of everything."

The Cal in the Capital program was started in 1965 by J. Michael McGinnis who was spurred into action when he applied for an internship and then found out senators' offices were picking summer interns randomly instead of by their qualifications.

He wanted to help Cal students with the application process and enable them to keep pace with their counterparts from the East Coast who live closer to the capital.

Now students with majors ranging from art to women's rights to publishing are taking advantage of the annual summer program.

When Bordalampe isn't at his desk at the government office he likes to view the memorials and monuments in the city.

"There is so much to see here. … I'm doing a lot of museum walking," he said.

After college Bordalampe tentatively plans on law school but when asked about the future responds with his favorite quote from Albert Einstein: "The universe tends to unfold as it should."

In the universe of the nation's capital, he has left a good impression.

"John is a great contribution to the office. We have gotten rave reviews on him and his tours," said Stone. "And that is no exaggeration."


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