My interest in international affairs began with my involvement in high school Model UN and followed me throughout my time at Cornell. The second semester of my junior year, I applied to the State Department. I believed it would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about U.S. foreign policy. Although the State Department contains a number of departments and agencies, each doing important and fascinating work, I was drawn to the Policy Planning Staff.
The Policy Planning Staff (S/P) serves as an internal think tank for the Department of State, responsible for covering the full range of foreign policy issues facing the United States. The Staff analyzes regional and functional issues, identifying gaps in policy, and is tasked with special projects by the Secretary of State. At the State Department, the Staff also includes the Secretary of State’s speechwriters.
My main duties as the speechwriting intern were primarily research, proofreading, and media monitoring. I also helped out members of the Policy Planning Staff with research projects and event planning. As mentioned before, the State Department is an amazing opportunity to learn more about foreign policy. There were meetings and speakers nearly every day, on subjects both geographically and topically diverse. I had the chance to meet some fascinating people during my time at State: Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin; David Milliband, former MP and head of the Labour Party; and Tom Malinowski, former director of Human Rights Watch and current Assistant Secretary of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
The best experience by far, however, was when I had the opportunity to write a speech for Secretary Kerry. It was for a relatively minor event—an introduction for an interdepartmental speaker—but, despite rounds of editing, the writing was mine from start to finish. It was incredible to see and hear the U.S. Secretary of State reading aloud a speech that I had written. I even met and shook hands with the Secretary after the event!
One of the biggest challenges I faced was learning to write for the ear. In school, we are taught to write academically, but as important as this style of writing is, it often sound stilted when read aloud. My coworkers and mentors were incredibly helpful and encouraging as I learned how to message and how to tell a story.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage anyone with an interest in foreign policy to look into interning at the State Department. It was a truly unforgettable experience in our nation’s capitol.
- Katherine Scott, BSILR'15