Congressional Hearings and Being Connected with the World

Everyone knows that there is a stark difference between witnessing an event live and just watching a recording of it. Whether you are at a concert, sporting event, or theater production, there is an extraordinary energy that permeates through the crowd as they develop a personal connection with the performers on stage.

Right now, I am lucky enough to be interning on Capitol Hill; ground zero for American political theater. The central part of my experience is that I am witnessing first hand how Congress operates. As such, one function of Congress is to conduct hearings, and it is my assignment to attend them then report on them to my office.

For example, one hearing that stuck out to me was hosted by the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding American strategy against ISIS. What caught my attention the most was not the scrutinizing questions the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff were asked, but rather it served as a reminder about how heavily invested America is the Middle East. It is one thing to read about a minuscule part of the hearing in the news, but an entirely different notion when you’re in the room live hearing the flashes of cameras and seeing the press corps eagerly typing on their laptops. It makes the topic being discussed much more real than just skimming a media article about it.

Growing up in the post 9/11 era, for the vast majority of my life, the news has portrayed the U.S. being in a constant state of war in the Middle East. Whether it’s Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, Iraq, or The Islamic State, the names do not matter because I have grown numb to news coverage in the region. This fact is particularly the case with the methods major news stations use to conduct their broadcasts, where making color commentary for ideological preferences is preferred over reporting non-bias facts. Over the past few weeks here I can easily say that being in a room with experts testifying about issues ranging from Iran to the Internet has made me appreciate receiving information first-hand and not having to rely on a separate medium for it.

Furthermore, being present at these hearings has taught me that the world is a lot bigger and a lot more complicated than any conclusions the press can make. From my experience, the best way to understand the world is to see it for yourself.

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