Ms. Hampton Goes to Washington

For senior political science and English double major Melody Hampton, her internship at the U.S. Congress brought her not just closer to the heart of American politics, but also to the Bradley family. This summer, she worked at the office of Congresswoman Robin Kelly ’78 M.A. ’82 HON ’14, the Bradley alumna who’s represented Illinois’ 2nd District since 2013.

During her eight-week internship, Hampton carried out many of the duties to support Kelly and the staff. She would answer constituent calls and correspondence, conduct research on legislation to assist senior staff members, draft memos, and attend meetings and hearings and take notes.

Because the 2nd District is geographically large, Kelly and staffers like Hampton need to form expertise that covers the diversity of the constituency, even on the same topic.

“How people in the South Side of Chicago receive internet is vastly different than how a farmer in the middle of nowhere would receive internet,” said Hampton, who is herself a farmer’s daughter. 

While she learned about the legislative process in class, it didn’t prepare her for how things work on Capitol Hill. Watching how much effort goes into a bill before it comes up for a vote, even if it dies on the floor, gave Hampton an inside view of Congress’ inner workings.

She was there June 24, the day when the Supreme Court issued its opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that led to the overturning Roe v. Wade. Although much of the staff felt emotionally affected by the decision, they channeled their energy into the bipartisan gun legislation that Kelly helped craft, which passed the House a few hours later.

Another unique experience during her internship was seeing the passage of Reese’s Law, which helps to protect children from ingesting button batteries. Hampton marveled at how a “really tragic issue can turn into legislation,” adding, “honestly, (that’s) one of the reasons why I want to go into congressional public servant work.”

Ultimately, what impressed Hampton most was the dedication demonstrated by members of Congress.

“Before I went to DC, I had a lot of respect for members of Congress and the work that they did, I knew they were pretty busy,” she said. “But after going and seeing exactly what (Kelly) does in a day, I have so much more respect for her, and also for all of her staffers who really put in the work and the time and the effort to make sure she’s up to date and knowledgeable on all of these different issues.”

Her time in the nation’s capital has caused her to change her career trajectory.

“About two weeks in, I fell in love with D.C., and not just DC, but the work of congressional staffers and the work of public servants,” she said. “So I plan on going straight into staffing work, public servant work.”

- Mel Huang