Bethany Beaver was 6 years old during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She remembers “being absolutely terrified and confused.” She was comforted, however, when President George W. Bush spoke these reassuring words to the nation:
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. … Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America. … This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Bethany may not have understood the concepts of terrorism or extremism at the time, but she remembers being in awe. “When one person can stand before a nation and comfort them, even a confused 6-year-old, it is something worth analyzing,” she says. “I did not know it at the time, but that was when I first started paying attention to politics and it has driven my engagement to this day.”
Today, Bethany, a political science and religion double major, continues her engagement with an internship through the prestigious Harvard Summer Democracy Fellowship in Washington, D.C. After a rigorous application process that included three essays and two phone interviews, she chose to work for Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working at the federal level to enact campaign finance reform legislation.
For Bethany, it’s been an eye-opener, coming to understand the influence of money in politics.
The best part is all that I am learning about money in politics,” Bethany says. “Before I started, I thought I knew a great deal about the issue but I realized quickly there is so much to it and many perspectives on how to fix it.
Together with an awesome and open-minded staff, Bethany has participated in strategy brainstorming sessions and researched future developments for Issue One. As the external relations intern, she has drafted donor biographies, researched prospective donors and their philanthropic motivations and worked extensively with the donor database. She’s also conducted research for the organization’s blog and written a few entries herself.
Issue One has sent Bethany to conferences and hearings in the capital. “These have been amazing events, including one on money in politics being a barrier to civil rights and another, held by the FEC, on foreign money in politics,” she explains.
An experience her freshman year at Heidelberg fueled Bethany’s fire for activism. She’d always done volunteer work in her Louisville, Ohio, community. She was selected to be a social justice intern, serving low-income and homeless populations through the non-profit Back Bay Mission in the Gulf community of Biloxi, Miss. It was then that she “realized how involved the government was in all of it.”
I saw so many things that needed fixed and I realized the public perception of these populations was ridiculously skewed,” she says. “Before that day, I was rather quiet about my beliefs, but after that, I found I had to attempt to help any way I could.
When she returns this fall for her senior year, Bethany has big plans to make a difference on campus. She’ll be bringing a heightened awareness and a fire for social activism. “If something like money in politics can have plausible solutions in a dysfunctional Congress, any issue I care about can be resolved in a small context like Heidelberg University.”
The fellowship has been a great experience for Bethany, as she considers her next step – law school or the Peace Corps – following her graduation in May 2017. Either way, her focus will be on international humanitarian law or criminal law.
Who knows … maybe one day, we’ll see Bethany putting her activism to work at the United Nations.