Kasey Darling, Alumni Relations Coordinator, Charles Koch Institute

Cato Intern Class Summer 2012

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How did you learn about the Cato Institute? What made you want to be an intern?

Heading into freshman year at Hillsdale College, I knew I wanted to intern in Washington, DC for as many summers as possible. I started my search early and found Cato through Google and asking my dad about well-known “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” organizations. When I started interning at Cato in June, I knew hardly anything about libertarianism. I knew Cato was impactful, but I didn’t realize the reach it had, and I wasn’t even sure what a think tank was. I entered that summer ready to learn as much as possible and was fortunate enough to have fellow interns who helped me learn along the way.

How did the internship affect the way you think about public policy and/or political philosophy?

The Cato internship experience helped to shape the way I think about public policy towards freedom for all people. Many of the issues we discussed were things that I previously held a more conservative view on, and it was eye-opening to confront the same issues from the libertarian perspective.

What kind of work are you doing now?

Currently, I work at the Charles Koch Institute as the Alumni Relations Coordinator. This position is about external relations and outreach—connecting our alumni to opportunities available through CKI and other partner non-profit organizations. My day-to-day centers around being a connector between our alums and other resources, identifying future event and project opportunities, and talking about the existing opportunities offered through CKI.

What advice can you offer to fellow alumni who want to secure a job like yours?

The importance of growing and maintaining a robust network cannot be overstated. It’s important to know what you want and to have your elevator pitch ready when meeting new people because, in my experience, people are eager to be helpful. External relations and outreach positions aren’t always listed on a job board, but if you can show your passion for the vision and the mission of the organization you’re interested in, chances are the organization will be able to find a position for you. Anyone interested in a relationship-building career path needs to be comfortable asking questions to gain a deeper level of understanding, be able to quickly make connections, and have an aptitude for remembering names and faces.

What’s a change—a policy perspective, a philosophical point, a messaging strategy, anything—that you would like to see in the libertarian community?

An increase in the understanding that we, overall, agree about the big issues. The liberty movement needs to stop focusing on the smaller, less-relevant, often divisive issues when we talk to new audiences. If we focused on the foundations of freedom for all people and limited government to get us there, we would be able to attract generations of people to liberty as a way of life.

Are there any important ideas (policy, philosophy, or something else) to which you subscribed for a long time, but now believe to be erroneous?

Perhaps I didn’t spend adequate time thinking about it, but I largely subscribed to a “tough on crime” attitude, without much thought about the individuals that society imprisons. The current push for criminal justice and policing reform has opened my eyes to the fact that the United States has an ineffective criminal justice system. Many of our laws (including absurd mandatory minimums) have resulted in too many people serving prison sentences—often for deeds that shouldn’t be crimes in the first place – without a thought for what will happen when they reenter society. In this sense, our criminal justice system is creating a society with greater levels of unrest and less peace and overlooks human dignity.

What makes you feel most optimistic about the future of liberty?

The passionate people who make up the movement.