The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    A passion for politics

    Kyle Seidel

    To many, going to Washington and seeing many of the nation’s top executives, including the president of the United States, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    However, if you’re senior Kara Kangas, it was all in a day’s work for four months.

    Kangas, a double major in political science with a mass communications emphasis and public relations major and economics minor, spent the fall 2004 semester in Washington, interning at the White House. As part of her duties, she performed many clerical tasks, such as answering phones and greeting appointments, she said. However, Kangas had another task to undertake when a national event arose.

    “Before one of the hurricanes hit (back in September), I had to call different governors’ offices and get their emergency contact information for the duration of the hurricane crisis,” she said.

    Story continues below advertisement

    A young politician

    The daughter of Republican parents, Kangas first became involved in the political scene at the age of six, when she accompanied them to a rally for Republican candidate George Bush Sr.

    “She enjoyed it when we took her to different rallies,” her mother Jane Kangas said. “She had (politics) in her blood early on.”

    Even though the rally and election took place in 1988, she said she deems it probably the most important event of her political life.

    “It’s pretty impressionable when you’re six years old and you get a taste of the process,” Kangas said.

    A 2000 graduate of Augusta high school, she pursued her political interest throughout secondary education. She was always one of the most politically knowledgeable students, said Paula Hahn, a good friend from high school.

    “She was always the girl talking about politics,” Hahn said. “She is who you’d go to if you wanted to know anything.”

    Kangas didn’t waste any time getting involved politically at UW-Eau Claire. In the fall of 2000, her freshman year, she joined the College Republicans and the Eau Claire County Republican Party. This participation led to an appointment to the Eau Claire County Board, where Kangas represented Upper Campus students as a county supervisor from fall 2001 to spring 2002. In 2002, she volunteered on Ron Brown’s state Senate campaign.

    “She had (politics) in her blood early on.”
    Jane Kangas
    Kara’s mother

    “Volunteering on different campaigns and volunteering on a state legislator’s campaign … I believe those political experiences set me apart (from other intern applicants),” Kangas said.

    She continued to be involved with the College Republicans on campus, but always wanted to travel and work in Washington.

    Receiving the Internship

    In fall 2003, Kangas was searching on the White House Web site when she came upon internship applications. After holding on to the application through the spring 2004 semester, she decided last summer it was the right time to apply for the opportunity to intern at the White House.

    “I figured now or never,” Kangas said. “(George W.) Bush might not make it through the election, so I applied.”

    In order to complete the application, a r‚sum‚ and three letters of recommendation were needed, she said. After answering brief questions about the Bush administration and its political policies, she faxed in her application.

    In two weeks, she received a call from someone at the White House who said her application had been placed in the top 100 of 1,400 total nationwide applications.

    “I consider myself very lucky,” Kangas said. “Out of 1,400 applications, to have your r‚sum‚ even looked at twice is a big deal.”

    The following Tuesday, she received another call – the internship position was hers.

    In September, she began interning in Washington in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, located across the street from the White House.

    At the White House

    While she views the opportunity to intern as being very important, Kangas said another great part of the experience was seeing so many people of political power.

    However, getting near them at most times was a whole different matter.

    “On the first day, the (EEOB staffers) talked to all the interns and gave them the security briefings,” Kangas said. “They tell you … ‘you’re going to see Condoleezza Rice, you’re going to see the president and vice president walking in the hallway, but don’t go up and talk to them. It is not the time to get autographs.’ ”

    Despite the large amount of security, Kangas had an easier time getting closer to other top White House executives during the first couple months of her stay. She met Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, and complimented his pleasant demeanor and commitment to meeting people like her.

    “He’s a really nice guy, and when he knows there’s an intern at a meeting, he’ll make it a point of going up to them and saying, ‘Thank you for helping us out,'” Kangas said.

    She also sat in on a meeting with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and was able to talk to him afterward.

    “Browsing through Newsweek and U.S. World Report articles, it sounds like he might run for president, so that was cool, just to sit at a table with him,” Kangas said.

    On Nov. 2, election day, Kangas was at the Reagan Building for a good portion of the night, where she saw boxing promoter Don King and Department Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The following day, Kangas attended Bush’s acceptance speech in the same building.

    “To witness that speech first- hand, to be part of that crowd … I will never forget that moment,” Kangas said.

    Shortly before her stint as a White House intern was complete, she got to take a picture with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, along with all the other interns. After the photo, Bush walked around and greeted a few interns, but not without a petty incident.

    “As he was walking up the step and was shaking my hand, he tripped on the step, and when someone makes a false step in front of you, you reach out for them,” Kangas said. “The president and I are looking at each other, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, if he falls, the Secret Service will be all over me, and it’s not my fault.’ He caught his balance and said, ‘Thank you.’ That was definitely a memorable moment.”

    Finally, at an EEOB reception, she was able to meet and take a picture with the president. Although nervous, she said she considers the moment, along with the entire internship experience, overwhelming and unforgettable.

    Her political future

    Kangas said she expects to graduate in December. Upon graduation, she plans to go back to Washington, where she intends to stay for a couple of years.

    “I’m sure you’ll find me working in politics,” Kangas said. “I’m not sure whether I’m (going) to be in a lobbying firm with the administration or working on the Hill. I like to keep my options open.”

    She said she hopes to work on a Republican campaign in 2006, and in 2008, hopes to experience a presidential campaign firsthand, she said.

    Hahn said she believes in Kangas’s ambitions.

    “Kara is … a very unique girl (with) a good sense of humor,” she said. “If she wants something, she’ll go for it. I see her going back to Washington and getting a job there.”

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    A passion for politics