By Anna Skinner
Many college students spend time interning in their field of study or spend a semester abroad, but not many have had the same opportunity as Fishers High School graduate Lauren Butz.
Lauren, 20, spent last semester at the White House, in the Office of Presidential Correspondence. Twenty-three interns were sent to Washington, D.C, from Indiana University. Lauren graduated FHS in 2014 and is currently majoring in law and public policy. One of her responsibilities at the White House was answering letters written to former President Barack Obama. Specifically, she was assigned to the Energy and Environment Portfolio, which at the time encompassed the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“The story hit major media sources on a Friday, and when we came into the office Monday, there were 45,000 emails sent over the weekend just over Dakota Access Pipeline,” she said. “It was hard, because for the longest time they didn’t know how to address it. Tracking that progress was really neat.”
Throughout his presidency, Obama made a point of addressing the letters flowing into the White House. The Office of Correspondence would send him 10 letters each night, and he would read and respond to them.
“Any intern, volunteer or staffer, if a letter moved you or you felt the president could read it, you could sample it,” Lauren said.
A sampled letter then went into a queue of 300, where the final 10 were hand-picked for the president. One of Lauren’s letters was read by the president.
“It’s really fortunate to a see hand-written response to one of the letters I also read,” she said. “There’s such a direct, personal connection that something you read and moved you also moved the president.”
Lauren not only experienced the White House’s response to the Dakota Access Pipeline issue during her tenure, she also saw the end of the election while in Washington, D.C., watched Leonardo DiCaprio and Katharine Cahill speak during the South Lawn event about global climate change, and carved pumpkins to be displayed around the White House and more.
In addition to the plethora of things she experienced, Lauren also heard Obama speak to her and the other interns at the end of her semester. He answered a handful of questions the interns had.
“Toward the end of the semester, the president spent time talking to us,” she said. “We met President Obama in the East Room and took a large group photo, and I shook his hand. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
Lauren’s mom, Heather Butz, said her daughter has always been interested in government and politics.
“She would follow news outlets from back in her early teens,” she said. “She has also always stood up for the ‘little guy’ and wanted to make an impact on this world.”
Lauren Butz’s dream job
Lauren Butz, who spent last semester interning at the White House in Washington, D.C, said that now that she’s returned to IU, everything has cliqued.
“Obviously, with my major being public policy, D.C. was the best place I could have possibly gone to get fully exposed to all the inner workings of the government and learn how decisions are made,” she said. “It’s crazy to see how transformative of an experience it is. The things my professors are talking about seem so real and not so far away. It was a very crazy, cool kind of thing.”
Lauren said her dream job is to make a difference.
“I’m on track to go to law school,” she said. “(My dream job is) definitely something in the government, maybe heading an agency one day. But as far as that goes, I don’t know much beyond that I want to do something that will make a difference and make Indiana a better place to live.”