An Opportunity of a Lifetime: White House Internship Program

Karim Farishta (2015)  is a student at The George Washington University, majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution. This past summer and fall, he was an ILF Civic Fellow and interned at the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Inspector General and the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, respectively. In Fall 2014, he studied comparative human rights in Chile, Jordan, and Nepal, where he got the opportunity to meet with civil society leaders who were finding local solutions to pressing, global challenges. Upon returning, he interned at the Alliance for Peacebuilding to create a narrative around the work of innovative peacebuilders. Farishta is a Harvard Kennedy School of Government Public Policy and Leadership Fellow and a Young People For – Human Rights Fellow. Karim is also the founder of the youth-led Global Issues Summit in Sugar Land, Texas. He recently joined the White House Office of Management and Administration as a Staff Assistant.

His posting below is about how the ILF Civic Fellowship has brought new opportunities and inspirations to him.

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The White House South Lawn, as seen before The White House Fall Garden Tours.
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Karim poses in front of the West Wing of The White House.

Over the past five months, I had the humbling opportunity to intern at the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPEIGA) and serve the President of the United States. The White House is so much more than a historical edifice. It is a dynamic place filled with Americans with big ideas and even bigger hearts. The leaders here not only believe in lasting social change, but they are also at the forefront of creating and sustaining it.

OPEIGA serves as the liaison between the White House and local governments and helps represent the views of local elected officials in policy formation within the Administration. As an International Leadership Foundation Civic Fellow, I had a deep understanding that listening to community members builds a stronger democracy and strengthens civic participation. Due to this deeply ingrained understanding of collaboration, as part of the OPEIGA team, I worked closely with organizations representing local elected officials such as the National League of Cities and the United States Conference of Mayors. My conversations with mayors, city councilmembers, and county officials helped me realize that the success of our nation relies on partnerships and dialogues with all levels of government.

From the first day I entered the White House gates, I was reminded that as the son of South Asian immigrants who came to the United States to fulfill their American Dream, I would do everything I could to make the American Dream a reality for more people. My experience gave me significant insight and appreciation of how government prepares, communicates, and ultimately influences change in our country. Interning at the White House has taught me that it takes innovative, passionate leaders to put forth strategies that help our President execute policies that encompass the perspectives of the diverse American people.

Engaging in public service is one of the most rewarding ways to grow as leaders and serve our communities. I am incredibly grateful to the International Leadership Foundation for affording me this opportunity and for cultivating the next generation of AAPI public servants. I would highly encourage other young AAPI leaders to apply for the White House Internship Program. By leveraging our unique leadership experiences and demonstrating our commitment to public service, we can continue to make the White House the ‘People’s House.’ It is our duty as American citizens to help build a more perfect union and public service internships are great avenues to contribute to the diverse fabric of the United States.