Ella Duangkaew: First Week Experience by Thai-American Second Generation in Washington, DC

Ella6For our first week in the Thai American National Internship Program, we had a weeklong orientation that served as an introduction to Washington D.C. Throughout the week we met with several different government and non-government agencies, organizations, and think tanks, as well as the Royal Thai Embassy itself. We met with several impressive and highly experienced representatives of these organizations, most directors of their respective programs in the organization or high-level staff members. Additionally, we toured several important landmarks of the city, including the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

Ella3Our orientation week began Sunday with an all-day trip to the Wat Thai in Virginia. There, we met with the honorable Thai Ambassador to the U.S. Pisan Manawapat and listened to a talk by Dr. Geoffrey Longfellow, who spoke completely in Thai and spoke about his foundation to bring sustainable development to Thailand. Monday began with an orientation meeting with our program coordinators at the U.S.- Asia Institute, followed by an Introduction to American Politics lecture by American University Professor Mike Russell. Then, we headed to Capitol Hill where we were given a tour of the Capitol Building by an intern in Congressman Jim McDermott’s office. Most memorably, during this tour we had the exciting opportunity to sit in on the Senate while it was in session. Monday ended with a meeting at the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan government organization that provides Congress members with information and resources about any topic they desire. We met with Wayne Morrison, the leading specialist at CRS in Asian Trade and Finance.

Ella1Tuesday began with an introductory meeting at the Royal Thai Embassy with the embassy staff and the Ambassador. Then, we had the privilege to meet the ten ambassadors of the ASEAN nations and sit in the beginning of the meeting between these ambassadors. Following the meetings, we met with every office and attaché in the embassy and discussed their goals, activities, and the potential of one of us interning with that particular department. Personally, I was particularly interested in the Air Force Attaché and look forward to potentially interning with them for my final week placement at the Royal Thai Embassy. Finally, Tuesday ended with a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Paul Kong, director of the international division of the Chamber of Commerce.

Ella2Wednesday was a busy day with five back-to-back meetings. The day began with a meeting at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where we met with renowned international trade scholar Ed Gresser. This was followed by a meeting at the Department of the Treasury, where we met with Joe Cwiklinski, the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Department’s SIGTARP program (Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program). We then returned to Capitol Hill for a meeting at the Republican National Policy Committee with staff member Michael Thorpe. Then, we had a meeting at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the world’s preeminent international policy institutions, where we met with senior fellow and deputy director of the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at CSIS, Murray Heibert. Finally, Wednesday ended with a meeting at the White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders, where we met with advisor and staff member Bessie Chan and three of her colleagues.

Ella5Thursday was another busy day of four engaging meetings. We began the day at the U.S. Asia Institute with a talk with Chris McCannell, who leads APCO Worldwide’s Washington D.C. financial services practice. Then, we met with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, where we met with director Carr Slayton and briefly met CEO and President of the Council Alexander Feldman. Then, we had the exciting opportunity to have lunch at the Pentagon, where we met with staff member David Michaels and received a tour of the Pentagon. The day ended with a meeting at the Stimson Center, a think tank that delivers pragmatic policy solutions on the major transnational dangers of our day. There, we met with Dr. Richard Cronin, director of the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center.

The week ended with several exciting meetings on Friday. We began at the State Department, where we met with Thai Desk Officer Kristi Law. Then, we heard again from Geoffrey Longfellow, who repeated his briefing on Thai Sustainable Development in English at the U.S. Asia Institute. After the briefing, we were interviewed by Voice of America, where we spoke about our experiences in the internship so far, our motivations for participating in the program, our aspirations for the future, and our opinions on Thai-American congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and the opportunities for Thai-Americans to engage in high level politics and government like her in the future. Following the interview, we met with experienced diplomat Robert Jordan at the U.S. Asia Institute for a talk on the ins and outs of a career in the State Department and the Foreign Service. We then went to the Supreme Court, where we met with Supreme Court Fellow Derek Webb and received a tour of the building. Finally, Friday ended with a meeting at the Department of Agriculture with Gary Woodward, the Deputy Under Secretary for the Department’s Marketing and Regulatory Agency.

Ella4Overall, we received a thorough, impressive and highly enlightening introduction to the city. We received a well-rounded and multi-sided look into policy-making, advocacy and research processes in Washington D.C. We are deeply grateful for this week and we feel that it has made us very ready and excited to begin our internship placements this Monday.

By Ella Duangkaew from Illinois

โดย นางสาว เอล่า พจนพร ดวงแก้ว จากมลรัฐ อิลลินอยส์

Click HERE to learn more about the Thai-American National Internship Program (TANIP)