In what follows, recent alumna Anna Inhofe describes the year she spent as an intern at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
I am walking through Eastern Market toward the Metro for work so early in the morning that the stars are still out. The click-clacking of my kitten heels on the uneven brick sidewalks is the only noise around. Honors Week – the annual bestowal of awards for artistic achievement in America – is upon us at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. And that means that there are more planned things to do in a day than possible, let alone the unforeseen micro-crises that are practically waiting to attack as soon as you step foot into the office. I am stubbornly determined to do the best I can for whatever the task at hand may be. This determination has proven to be one of my fiercest strengths, and at times also my biggest personal enemy.
I was completely overwhelmed during the first few days of my internship at the nation’s Performing Arts Center last fall. My supervisor was the Vice President of Institutional Affairs in charge of over-seeing the Press Office, Gift Shops, Board of Trustees meetings; she also acts as the Chief of Protocol and serves as the government liaison. Along with helping her, one of my main charges was to run the international arts management symposia for the Center’s President. What in the world was an arts symposium?, I wondered at the beginning. And what are we doing holding one in Vietnam? But a job that started out as intimidating quickly became comfortable. I grew used to meeting people like the Danish Ambassador and escorting people like the Cultural Minister of China to a meeting. Those months of living a mixed fairy tale and reality were completely new to me: I saw how this whole job was a beautiful mix of both. Keeping a smile and face of calm, I had learned to cope with chaos. No running on the red carpet allowed.
During Honors week, the whole Center goes slightly insane. Everyone is trying to wrap up details and triple-check that everything is ready to go. After 9/11 this was the first event in 2001 where the President and Vice President were present in the same location. It is a tradition as much of an honor and celebration. Only three interns got to work the event, and, as an added perk, we got to take turns inside the house to see the show. Otherwise, we were running to the loading dock to check on media feeds, checking press people in through Secret Service, taking snacks to the green room. One highlight was my go on the red carpet. December in DC is cold. So, of course the luminaries in attendance all had coats! But who wants a big coat on in their picture? Someone had to hold them, namely, me. Not exactly an exalted position, but when Roger Daltry gives you a “Thanks, Love” at the end, being a coat rack is totally glamorous. As the show was starting, however, I found myself with an extra coat and purse whose owner was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, I was in possession of the coat and purse of Dina Ruiz, the wife of Clint Eastwood. Fortunately, we linked back with her assistant, and thank goodness: I was nervous knowing that I was holding all her credit cards.
My stint as an intern at the Kennedy Center provided me with plenty of explicit challenges. Though the professional world is infinitely different than what I had experienced at Cal, I felt prepared by the challenges which a school like Berkeley gives its students. With my academic preparation and a little bit of professional work behind me, I’m looking further into the future. What do I want to do? The open possibilities are exciting and anxiety-producing at the same time. A tough job market just means we have to be a little more creative, a little more resourceful. This creativity and resourcefulness were part of what I learned at Cal: they served me well at the Kennedy Center, and I know they will serve me – and the rest of our hallowed alumni – well in the future.