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Hill Climbers: Politics Gave Ellison Staffer ‘Direction in Life’

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Stephen Lassiter, a legislative aide for Rep. Keith Ellison, spent two years teaching English and history at a high school in Palestine’s West Bank before moving to D.C. and finding a job on Capitol Hill.

“I think that anybody who spends any time in the region will see that the stories we hear are true, but they certainly don’t set the standard for what life is like there,” he said. “You forget that the vast majority of what’s going on is regular life.”

He returned to the U.S. to help lead a critical language program at the State Department. And while he was here, he decided it was time to head to the “ground zero” of politics and policy: Capitol Hill.

Lassiter did the job dance known by many a Hill staffer: He spent two months interning with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), followed by an internship with then-Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), before he got a job as a staff assistant in Sen. Kay Hagan’s office.

He worked as a legislative correspondent for the North Carolina Democrat before moving in March to Ellison’s office as a legislative aide, where he works on issues such as foreign policy, defense, immigration and gay and lesbian rights.

The plan is to eventually return to school for a master’s of public policy. “There’s too much world out there,” he said.

“I don’t want to spend my entire career in Washington,” Lassiter said. “I’d like to get abroad at some point again. [Washington is] a great place to cut your teeth, but there’s more to life than just D.C.”

For now, he is happy where he is and wants to keep trying to make a difference.

“It’s empowering and encouraging in the sense that you can put some of your ideas into action,” Lassiter said.

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