Washington, D.C., native Lawrence Smith (right), BSIM '08, returned to his hometown last summer as an intern in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Mr. Smith goes to Washington
Though he’s only a sophomore, Krannert’s Lawrence Smith already has a number of impressive references and accomplishments on his resume.
As an intern last summer for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Smith played a role in several key legislative actions and rubbed shoulders with some of the most powerful people in Washington, including Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Smith’s initial responsibilities were typical of most interns, including answering phones, processing mail, running errands, and responding to constituent inquiries. Often working as late as 11 p.m., however, he soon distinguished himself.
“My superiors saw that I was dedicated and interested in what I was doing,” Smith says. “As time went by, I began getting rewarded with extra responsibilities and better projects. By the end of the internship, people called and asked for me specifically.”
Such a call came just as Smith arrived at work one day, requesting his participation in a meeting later that morning about a confidential research project involving eight federal judges. He began preparing immediately and had developed a PowerPoint template before the meeting even began.
“The next morning, Sen. Frist and President Bush were looking at my PowerPoint presentation about the eight judges,” Smith says. But they weren’t just any judges. The adjudicators profiled in Smith’s presentation were being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court, including now Chief Justice John Roberts.
Helping shape the future of our nation’s highest court would be the highlight for most interns, but Smith’s proudest achievement was working on legislation to provide clean, safe drinking water to developing countries. His specific area of interest is sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of clean water leads to some 14,000 deaths every day.
“In 2004, the U.S. gave $200 million for water purification worldwide, of which
$150 million went to Saudi Arabia and Egypt alone. Ninety percent of the world’s need is in sub-Saharan Africa, yet they received only $7 million,” Smith says. “We pay more than that to purify water in West Lafayette.”
Efforts to increase the region’s funding to $50 million initially stalled, but Smith and his colleagues in the majority leader’s office kept the legislation alive. Co-authored by Sen. Frist and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 (H.R. 1973) passed unanimously in November. “It’s amazing to think that even though I was just an intern I helped save people’s lives,” Smith says.
While he doesn’t rule out a return to politics someday, Smith’s immediate goals are to broaden his horizons internationally. He may be part of a student-exchange group from Krannert that will visit China this spring, and he hopes to secure an internship in China, Germany, or Spain for the summer.
And if potential employers need a reference, there are many people in Washington and at Krannert who’ll speak highly of Smith. He’ll be just as quick to share the praise. “Everything I’ve accomplished so far has been through developing relationships,” he says. “You can’t do it alone.”
— Eric Nelson