Southeast Student Soaking in Capitol Hill Experience

Cox WillToDo GraphicWASHINGTON, D.C. — Southeast Missouri State University senior Wesley Cox of Ferguson, Missouri, says he plans to run for public office and someday aspires to be president of the United States.

Cox is getting a taste of his future this summer as an intern in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

In his first few weeks on the job, he has led tours of the U.S. Capitol building, attended hearings in the U.S. Senate Appropriations and Foreign Affairs committees as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committees, studied in the Library of Congress and visited the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cox, a political science and communication studies double major, says, “Being in Washington during a presidential election year makes it a very busy one. Congress, both House and especially the Senate, have been tirelessly working to create and pass legislation of various kinds. There are also many meetings that have been occurring, including presidential candidate Donald Trump visiting with Republican leadership to try and gain their support.”

He says he is also witnessing how hard our elected officials work each day.

“These men and women put in a lot of effort attending hearings and committee meetings where discussions that drastically affect Americans’ lives take place,” Cox said. “Witnessing this first hand has been crucial in my learning experience. I have also learned the importance of excellent constituent services.”

Cox said he landed the internship after meeting a Blunt staffer at a luncheon hosted on the Southeast campus. During that conversation, he learned about internships in the senator’s office, and shortly thereafter applied.

As an intern in the Russell Senate Office Building, Cox helps the legislative director, correspondents and assistants on constituent projects as well as legislative affairs. This includes attending committee hearings and writing policy memos on the topics discussed. He also has gotten the opportunity to listen in on meetings and briefings and even attend speeches and debates given on the House and Senate floor.

Cox capitolHe has attended a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the agricultural budget for FY2017 and a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting with topics titled “Democratic Support Strategies in Africa” and “ISIS Declaration of Genocide. What Next?”

“The Democratic Support Strategies in Africa hearing involved ways to properly restore peace in areas where the traditional governments are using corrupt acts to circumvent things such as democratic elections,” Cox said. “The ‘ISIS Declaration of Genocide. What Next?’ hearing sought to create a comprehensive plan to address the atrocities caused by ISIS.”

Cox has been charged with creating legislative trackers for proposed legislation as well as any amendments offered during a bill’s or resolution’s lifespan.

“I have worked with the Senator himself occasionally,” he said, including attending meetings with Blunt and his legislative director where he observes how the senator is advised.

Every Wednesday, Cox works with Blunt on a weekly event titled “Missouri Mornings” in which constituents and other organizations come to take photos and speak with the senator and his staff.

Cox said his internship has also allowed him to build relationships with many in legislative circles.

“Interning in D.C. has allowed for amazing networking opportunities. I was able to have many lunches with chiefs of staff, legislative consultants and assistants, and even a gentlemen working in (St. Louis) Mayor Slay’s office as well as a Pentagon worker,” he said. “I have also been able to network more laterally with other interns throughout our office and others.”

He also has taken time to explore the Washington, D.C., area, where he says he has visited all of the monuments and the national mall.

“I also took one Saturday and Sunday to wonder around the many museums that are available. The Newseum was my favorite,” he said. “It is a new interactive museum of news and journalism.”

After graduating from Southeast, Cox says he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in international affairs or international policy development and work as a foreign affairs advisor or legislative assistant, before eventually running for office.

Cox plans to graduate in December from Southeast, where he has been a member of the Educational Access Program, Student Support Services, Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Lambda Pi Eta National Communication Honor Society and the Southeast Missouri State Debate Team. He has served as a Presidential Ambassador and held the executive position of Interfraternity Council (IFC) vice president of recruitment and retention. He has also been very active with his fraternity, Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. He currently serves as the fraternity’s president and held former positions including vice president and Greek Week co-chair, and has been a member of various committees.

When Cox returns to Southeast in August, he will arrive with a newfound understanding of the federal government. For now, he says he is soaking in all the information he can.

“I hope to take away a more in depth understanding of the national legislative process. Being able to witness the discussions first hand on the Senate and House floors has been a very worthwhile experience which I hope I can do much more frequently in the coming weeks,” he said. “I also hope to walk away from this internship having made and established connections that will lead to mutually beneficial relationships for my political future.”