Let’s Debate the Issues — Productively

by Mandy Thompson ’06


Mandy Thompson ’06

I am a legislative assistant to a United States representative from California.

My portfolio covers 16 topics, including women’s rights, crime, drug enforcement, homeland security, immigration, civil rights, and appropriations, among others. I closely track these issues and provide counsel to the congressman on votes. Additionally, I draft speeches, lead meetings with businesses, community groups, local officials, and citizens, and, best of all, help introduce legislation.

When I tell people I have worked in the House of Representatives for six years, I’m often asked how I can stand the dysfunction of modern-day politics. I don’t argue against this observation: Congress is at its lowest approval rating in years, and this is justified when politicians cannot even manage to reauthorize essential laws such as the Violence Against Women Act.

However, I also like to remind people that stalled lawmaking is not always “politics as usual.” The Capitol is home to a passionate democracy, the meeting place of deeply held but clashing convictions about how our laws should operate. This is the kind of environment in which I believe Scripps women can make the most positive difference.

At Scripps, our thesis advisors and Core mentors demanded that we confront tough questions and ethical quandaries head on. I now do the same thing in my job. This past year, I have authored legislation with my boss that would increase protections for refugees fleeing persecution and abuse and a bill that would help prevent wrongful deportations of immigrants and citizens with mental disabilities. We will soon be introducing legislation that incentivizes states to remove juveniles from adult courts and prisons.

We are dealing with contentious issues, and we do not always win popularity contests by bringing attention to them. But we are fighting for what we believe in and advocating on the House floor for those who do not have representation. When I receive emails from constituents or Congressional offices to join us in becoming involved with these issues or a phone call from a member saying, “Tell me more about this,” it makes the sweat and toil worth it.

We’ve planted a seed of thought and started a discussion that can begin to grow.

Thompson works in the office of U.S. Representative Pete Stark (D-California). At Scripps, Thompson self-designed a major in criminal law and psychology. Outside of work, she likes to wander the halls of the Smithsonian Institution and spend time with friends. She also volunteers several evenings each month as a sexual assault emergency responder for the D.C. Rape Crisis Center.


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