Alexander Laska discovered his interest in politics in high school, while watching election returns as a homework assignment.
Alexander Laska says he discovered his interest in politics while watching the 2006 election returns in his Connecticut home as part of an assignment for his AP Government class.
Recognizing how rare it was to be excited about homework, Laska decided then and there that he was going to Capitol Hill. He described the journey to his current position as a legislative correspondent in the office of Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) as a series of “trials by fire.”
At George Washington University, Laska majored in political communications. While he remembers certain classes and professors fondly, he recommends gaining experience outside the classroom as an undergraduate.
As he learned through press internships at the Peace Corps and the Department of Justice, Laska prefers to be thrown into the ring rather than watch from the sidelines. He could not overstate the importance of internships to a career on the Hill.
“Almost all of the stuff I’m doing as a press assistant, I was doing as an intern,” Laska said.
After his internship at the DOJ, Laska applied for a press internship in the office of his Representative, Himes. He has been there ever since. Having first been promoted to press assistant, he assumed the responsibilities of legislative correspondent this May.
“When we’re confronted with something difficult, not helping someone isn’t an option,” Laska said. “Helping constituents is the most important thing we can do.”
Laughing is right up there, too.
A sense of humor is crucial to working on the Hill, said Laska. The life of a Congressional staffer, or even a Member, is destined to be much bleaker “if you can’t laugh when it’s called for.”
A colleague who recently left Himes’ office left a note for Laska, which he says is one of his most treasured possessions. It read: “I always appreciated your ability to make people laugh.”
Social media makes up a large part of Laska’s current position, and he highly recommends the “very funny” tweets Himes produces.
Although Laska acknowledges that “a lot of people find it to be very concerning, social media allows us to connect with people in a way that we couldn’t before.” This part of his job is an “ongoing experiment.”
“There’s no model. Most social media platforms aren’t intended for Members of Congress, so we have to ask, ‘How can we stay on their newsfeeds and on their minds?’” he said.
Though he has worked in the office of only one Member, Laska doesn’t see himself going anywhere else anytime soon.
“Every day, I’m doing something different and learning something new. If I ever found myself doing the same thing, I’d know it was time to move on,” he said.
Growing up in a Republican household, Laska recognized at an early age that his political opinions diverged from his family’s. However, he says, differences of opinion have never been an issue “at the dinner table” and his family has always been supportive of his career and goals.
“I think that people have a tendency on both sides of the aisle to surround themselves with like-minded peers and assume things about those who disagree with them that may not be fully true,” Laska said. “As someone who has lived with Republicans and Democrats alike and who is friends with Republicans and Democrats alike, I know we can get along, I know we can talk about the issues in a civilized and productive manner, and I know that when we work past those differences and focus on what we do agree on, we can do what our constituents sent us here to do.”
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Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.