Week 10: The One After Vegas

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Monday, August 8, 2022


Aidan Keaveney

Hi y’all! This will be my last blog of the SPS summer internship. This summer has been among the most challenging of my life. I witnessed the failure of our government to properly meet the needs of our people. I met people who called me horrible names and ridiculed everything I stand for. I saw how easy it would be to tumble into despair and lose faith in people. And yet, if I had to choose again, I would do this internship every time. 


Okay, now that I have your attention, here’s an ice cube for that scalding hot tea: I also met a lot of wonderful people who work really hard to make the world a better place. I spoke to a lot of constituents who reminded me that even if as a species we’re a bit of a mess sometimes, most of us are pretty good people. My fellow interns in SPS and on Capitol Hill were uncommonly generous with their time, spirit, attention, and kindness. Even after weeks where I felt so drained from a constituent calling me a f***ing f***ot or Joe Manchin being Joe Manchin or just knowing that basically every bill I wrote about this summer would never make it out of committee, I knew I would be welcomed by the SPS interns to a potluck dinner. My only hang up from this summer was that I wish I had more energy to spend on getting to know my fellow interns more. 


This internship scrambled my mind, which is a good thing. Even if in these blogs it sort of seems like I know what I’m talking about, I don’t. I learned so much and had so many experiences that it will take me a very very long time to digest all of it. My grandfather asked me when I got home from Washington, D.C., how I would describe my summer in one word. I think my precise word was “aaaaaahhhhhhgbgghh.” I am trying to embrace that feeling as much as I can, however anxiety inducing it may be. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I’m more likely to run for office someday or never work in politics again. 


This isn’t just an internal mess either; people have noticed. At one of the last potlucks of the summer, the SPS interns played “Most Likely To”, where we voted who was Most Likely To do something. I was Most Likely To in three categories: to have children, to get a Ph.D. In physics (other than Valeria), and to do something completely unrelated to physics. I continue to find this endlessly hilarious and sharply insightful, not to mention deeply flattering. Yes, I am flattered by my peers also not knowing what I’m going to do with my life, but believing that I will be doing something. 


Anyway, like my mind right now, this blog is a bit of a mess, but that’s okay because it’s honest. And, I would honestly take a complexly great experience over a simply good one every time. 


I have wanted to participate in the SPS Summer Internship Program for years, ever since I first heard about it when Brad Conrad gave a talk for my SPS chapter at the beginning of my sophomore year. I applied for this internship twice and interviewed three times, four if you count interviewing with Congressman Foster’s office. Throughout all of it, my pitch was that my interests are too broad to be confined to just physics. I yearned for an opportunity to engage with science, community, and government, if possible. I’m sure in at least one of my interviews or applications, I said something like “I want to expand my horizons of what a physics education can lead to.” Well, this summer didn’t just expand my horizons; it destroyed them. Like the universe, the possibilities have no edge and are expanding.


I am so grateful to everybody who made this summer possible and the support SPS has provided me over the years. My thanks go out to Brad Conrad, Kayla Stephens, Mikayla Cleaver, Andrew Zeidell, and the entire SPS team that makes this internship happen every year. Thanks to Dr. John Mather and the John and Jane Mather foundation for creating and funding the Mather policy position. Thanks to Congressman Foster and Team Foster for opening up their office to a bright-eyed, if slightly tortured, physicist. Thanks to everyone at Appalachian State and my SPS chapter for writing recommendations, encouraging me to pursue this program, and being the people that make SPS so wonderful. Thanks to my family and friends for trying to keep me grounded, hard as I may resist. And, of course, thank you to the other SPS interns from this summer for sharing yourselves and your experiences with me. I am better for having met all of you, and I look forward to watching where you go. I will see you at PhysCon 2022. 


This is far from the end of my time with SPS. As is tradition at my university, I am transitioning into the Vice Presidency of my SPS chapter for my senior year, to mentor and advise the new leadership team. They will be great. SPS continues to be incredibly generous in supporting my education with the Jack Hehn and SPS Leadership scholarship for this academic year. And, of course, I will be joining SPS National Council as the humble Associate Zone Councilor for Zone 5, North and South Carolina. I am thrilled at the opportunity to serve SPS and my physics communities in this role. So, this may be my last blog, but this is not goodbye. Thank you. 

Aidan Keaveney