I never thought I’d start a Thursday morning at work with a glass of champagne. Yet, there I was, on the second week of my Karel experience, hoisting my plastic cup in the air, surrounded by clapping, cheering, hugging, and even crying, coworkers. “We did it,” someone chimed. And even though I felt a sharp wince of disagreement, I knew that, at that moment, my internship made me a part of something bigger than myself. That moment, that electricity in that room, is why we as communicators do what we do.
The Thursday in question is June 25th, 2015; the historic King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision was announced, upholding Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies. My workplace, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), produces blog posts, reports, fact sheets, and congressional testimonies to “pursue federal and state policies designed to both reduce poverty and inequality”. King v. Burwell became an office-wide focus as SCOTUS neared the end of the term; eyes
were glued to SCOTUSblog, collective breaths were held, and speculating e-mail chains were sent. When the verdict arrived, I didn’t even need to check the news to know CBPP’s cause had emerged victorious; cheering, and clapping erupted down the halls as the decision was read. Soon after, the entire center gathered in a conference room to watch the President’s statement and toasted the victory with champagne.
I should note before I continue that, although my host organization is known as politically liberal, I do not identify in the same way. That does not make me resentful of my organization; rather, the experience has been a lesson in tolerance (and holding my tongue) when others champion policies I don’t believe in or criticize my ideals. I am honored to have the opportunity to work here and consider the experience as valuable as any other organization.
Often times, working in an environment where all those around me are so passionate and vocal about their political beliefs can be difficult. It can be hard to see the point in supporting the center in championing policies I don’t believe are the best means of helping our country. I sometimes struggle to see how working for things I don’t believe in can be “social change” for me. I sometimes ask myself: am I dishonest – to myself and to society – for working to support their cause, even if it completely goes against my beliefs?
As I continue my experience in both my internship, certain points stick out to me, like the Thursday with champagne. My responsibilities include performing web analytics of our content and social media, creating e-mail strategies and tests, and drafting Tweets for new releases. I’ve also covered Congressional events, identified CBPP citations in the media, and drafted a blog post of my own. From the back end, it doesn’t seem like much that impacts the public. But on days like that day, I was reminded how my day to day tasks can fit into a bigger picture of influencing real change in politics, society, and the everyday lives of others. Even if I didn’t agree with the decision, the politics of the moment didn’t matter; the feeling of knowing that what we do at CBPP can, and does, make a difference in the lives of others was all that counted.
I’ve noticed in my study and work in communications that many in the field forget the big picture. From day to day, it’s easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless stream of little tasks, e-mails, and politics that can come from a job in this field. But sometimes, we all need to hit the refresh button and remind ourselves why we do what we do, and who we do it for. As communicators, we need to remind ourselves that a bigger picture exists, and that we can’t lose sight of whatever it may be.
Do I agree with my organization’s entire philosophy? Politically, no. But I care about others, and I agree that the issues CBPP tackles are important. This internship has taught me to look past the politics and differences, to learn from others, and to understand that this is all about something bigger than me. I’m learning that there’s passion, creativity, and encouragement in remembering the bigger picture, and that being a better communicator means never losing sight of it.
And to me, that’s cause for champagne.