Nfld. & Labrador

Talking to Americans: How this N.L. student wound up interning for Nancy Pelosi

When Darcy Taylor had to do an internship for his university program, he got what he wanted: a coveted spot in Washington, D.C.
Darcy Taylor worked in the office of Nancy Pelosi when she was the Democratic house leader. (Submitted)

When it came time for Darcy Taylor to do an internship in foreign relations, the student didn't set his eyes on Ottawa.

Instead, the St. John's native — now studying at Trinity College in Toronto — took a post in the Washington offices of Nancy Pelosi, now the third most powerful player in Washington with her election as speaker of the House of Representatives. 

"Some of the staff were like, 'Why are you here again? You're from Canada?' he recalled, laughing.

At the same time, most of those same people appreciated the Canadian system as being more in line with Democratic Party ideals.

They'd be like, 'Oh, we love Canada,'" he said during a phone interview from Toronto. 

An exciting, but also alarming time

In the summer of 2016, there was no shortage of activity in the American capital. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump were crisscrossing the country in their bids for the presidency. Both made visits to the capital to talk to leaders.

"It was an exciting political time to be there, but also alarming," said Taylor, who was 19 at the time.

From left, fellow interns Jamie Starr and Claire Mohun pose with Darcy Taylor on the steps of the United States Supreme Court following a favourable ruling for Planned Parenhood in the summer of 2016. (Submitted)

"I mean, we all used to just laugh at Trump at that point. We're like, 'Oh, he's just a Gong Show of a candidate' — and then a few months later, that became reality."

As Democratic house leader — and now as speaker — Pelosi had three separate offices to run: the leader's office, a communications office, and a third constituency office. Taylor, who's now in his last year of an international relations degree, spent most of his time in the last, dealing with matters relating to Pelosi's home state of California.

All told, there were about 10 interns among the 50 or so staffers across all three offices. Taylor said the camaraderie with fellow newbies was comforting.

"You weren't just alone with the staff. That would have been a bit intimidating."

But he was kept busy. He attended a number of congressional briefings and committee hearings, and was expected to write up memos on anything of relevance. He also got to delve into research, and occasionally dealt with emails from Pelosi's constituents.

Shooting deaths had strong impact 

One of the more dramatic moments occurred after 49 nightclub patrons were shot dead by a gunman in Orlando, Fla. At the time, it was the largest mass shooting in American history. (That death toll was exceeded the following year at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.)

Taylor attended a protest on the steps of the Capital, where 91 volunteers wore orange shirts to represent the average 91 U.S. citizens killed each day by gun violence.

"One of my practical jobs there was counting all these volunteers in orange shirts, making sure there was 91 or 92, so that when they went out for their photo op, it would be correct," said Taylor.

At times, he admitted, the experience seemed like something right off a TV screen.

"Seeing [Pelosi] strutting through the House of Representatives with her circle of security and advisers by her handing her papers, you go, 'Oh, OK, it's like I'm in West Wing or House of Cards or something.'"

A family connection to politics

When he left high school in St. John's, Taylor initially thought he might go into business, but changed his mind

"I think I like history and politics and these things, more than accounting and human resources."

Nancy Pelosi holds the gavel during the opening session of the 116th Congress on Jan. 3. She is the first woman to become speaker of the House of Representatives. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

In fact, his curiosity about politics goes back to when he was about seven years old.

"When my uncle [Danny Williams] was premier, I watched him deliver a budget or something … and I remember I came home and made a little premier's book, and read the budget. Well, clearly I didn't read it — I skimmed the budget. So, I had a little interest then."

The internships aren't a requirement of the university, but rather of a hefty scholarship he was given by the Loran Foundation in 2015. The $100,000 award covers his tuition and internships for five years.

When he graduates this year, Taylor hopes to do a masters degree in either the U.K. or France. But he'd still like to do something related to American foreign policy in the end.

Old guard

So, what does he think of his former boss, now that she's been thrust back into a major leadership role?

Taylor said he sympathizes with the new young crop of Democrats who want to inject new blood into the party. Many have complained about Pelosi's age.

"I get it when younger Democrats say we need generational change and we need a more inclusive leadership that's not just the same three people," said Taylor, noting that even Pelosi's top two top aides are, like her, pushing 80.

"At the same time, I feel she's obviously held to a different standard as a woman."

In the end, he said, Democrats made the right choice in electing her as speaker, given her track record of getting results.

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About the Author

Peter Jackson

Contributor

Peter Jackson is a freelance writer in St. John's.

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