Ciarán Roddy talks about his first day interning with the Department of Health and Human Services.When I found out that I was interning at the Department of Health and Human Services, I didn’t quite know what to expect. When we had been asked to list our preferred internships, HHS wasn’t one of the available options and upon hearing that I would be placed there I was slightly confused.
Of course, Bryan Patten and Ellen Motley quickly assured me that I was very lucky to have been placed in such a position and they could not have been more right. Delving into a little more detail, I was told that Secretary Sebelius had attended WIP’s Celtic Chefs event and had expressed her dismay that she did not have an Irish intern for the summer. Keen to impress such a high-ranking and well-respected official, Ellen pulled a few strings and it turned out that I was the fortunate class member who would fill the position at HHS.
Between then and the beginning of my internship, I had been liaising with members of Secretary Sebelius’ Immediate Office who probably don’t ordinarily deal with interns. Nevertheless, they were extremely accommodating and they finally reached an agreement with me that I would be placed in the Office of Global Affairs (OGA) with the prospect of spending time at the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) – given my legal background.It kept getting better. My supervisor, Maeve McKean – who is Senior Advisor to OGA’s Director – welcomed me and got me acquainted with everyone on my first day. In terms of figuring out what I should spend my time doing, Maeve explained that there was loads to do, but she wanted to take time to figure out which projects would best fit my capabilities and interests. She then apologized for not having it sorted from the get-go.As if she should be apologizing for putting extra effort into figuring out what would suit me best!In the meantime, she arranged for me to attend the release of the 2012 Trafficking in Person’s Report. Whilst it would be a honor to attend such an event in any circumstance, the significance of this event was heightened in that the guest speaker was the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and she was joined by special guests including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Talk about awestruck!Aside from the intimidating company that I was keeping, Secretary Clinton’s speech was typically excellent and thought provoking. It seemed that the term “human trafficking” didn’t sit well with her as she suggested that the term doesn’t quite portray the severity of what it entails. Instead, she preferred to describe it as “modern slavery”. Whilst Secretary Clinton et al were there to commend those who achieved excellence in the prevention of human trafficking, she reminded us that insofar as 27 million people worldwide are living in slavery around the world, we still have a collective duty to bring this to an end. Before the end of her speech, she summarized:
“Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those who are vulnerable. Our aim should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach”.To have been privy to such an event and to be the first WIP intern at the Department of Health and Human Services is an honor and a privilege. With this honor and privilege comes a responsibility to HHS, WIP and myself to ensure that I avail of every opportunity that this internship bestows upon me. In the coming weeks of my internship I will strive to ensure that I can fulfill this responsibility.